Straight from the Snowmonton comes JACK FROST, a tasty slasher with some serious comic heft. This 1997 is the stuff of legend, predictably loathed by those who watch movies with their arms crossed and enjoyed by those with a thing for unconventional, on-the-carrot-nose winter horror.
The first thing to note is the premise of this Michael Cooney film, which makes a forthright approach all but impossible. There is no point in crafting JACK FROST as a normal horror picture and no reason to subject audiences to what would amount to a blandly “serious” take on small town shenanigans.
So. There is a serial killer named Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) and he’s on his way to execution after he was finally arrested by Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport) of Snowmonton. There’s a problem with the transfer of the prisoner to his certain doom and a crash somehow fuses Frost with chemicals inside a genetic research truck because why the hell not.
Tiler is haunted by Frost’s threats and soon enough Snowmonton is haunted by a murderer. People are dispatched in gruesome fashion, which leads the FBI to the small town. Agent Manners (Stephen Mendel) is as serious as they come and hates being around these damn yokels, but soon enough he has to focus on the real issue: a slaying snowman.
So, how seriously should a movie about a murdering snowman take itself? Cooney’s picture doesn’t really send itself up so much as it sends up the ideas behind the madness, with a clear slicing of various tropes on the menu. This is low budget horror, straight from the bargain bin, but it’s stuffed with more creativity than a lot of fare with higher fiscal benefits.
The framing of JACK FROST takes the course of a story told to a child, albeit a child with a disturbingly shrill voice. This establishes it as a kind of fable, one where ruthless murders are inflicted on a town famous for adoring snowmen, and it lends the film a mythic, untrustworthy quality. There’s nothing literally true here, even within the context of its own story. The ludicrous embellishment is baked in.
What we get is the stuff of idiotic, silly-scary nightmares – at Christmastime. The snowman quips like he’s got a one-liner jokebook under his hat. The sheriff is beloved by all in his own economical way. The FBI has secrets. There’s weird science. There’s a wise-cracking deputy (Chip Heller), who honestly has the best lines in the movie. And Shannon Elizabeth debuts in a pretty remarkable way.
JACK FROST isn’t for everyone and that’s fine. It is an impertinent take on the genre, one that wears its snowballs on its sleeve and spares nothing in the process. Cooney was clearly limited by budgetary issues and you’re kind of glad he was, as any extra cash would’ve taken the fun right out of seeing just how far Frosty goes when he’s on the warpath.