Last Christmas I gave you my heart, by which I mean I finally watched JACK FROST and wrote about it. This year, I wouldn’t say I was in tears, but JACK FROST 2: REVENGE OF THE MUTANT KILLER SNOWMAN wasn’t as special.
I mean… they tried. Writer/director Michael Cooney returned in the year 2000 (three years after the original) with another scrappy low budget bag of silliness. This one does not have a fancy Vinegar Syndrome special edition, because it was shot in shiny ugly digital video, so what would be the point? There are a couple obvious stock footage shots and I thought “Oh, that’s what a real movie looks like.” On his commentary track (respect for including that), Cooney says he hopes people don’t notice that the stock footage looks different. Whoops.
Not that we watch a JACK FROST picture for the cinematography. The real problem in my opinion is that Cooney abandoned the #1 thing the first film had going for it: that it acted like it was serious. In this one, unfortunately, he keeps going for straight up jokes, setup and punchline and everything. So, for example, I’m happy when the hero’s wife Anne (Eileen Seeley, Martha Wayne in BATMAN FOREVER) does a big monologue theorizing that genetic bonding has given the killer snowman her husband’s banana allergy. But I’m unhappy when, a beat later, her friend Marla (Marsha Clark, “Judge Karen Fitzpatrick,” Days of Our Lives) laughs hysterically at the idea. We know it’s ridiculous. The characters shouldn’t.
But I think Cooney really hated the idea of dumbasses thinking he wasn’t in on the joke. At the very beginning of the commentary he says that some people didn’t understand the first one was supposed to be funny so he “wanted to make sure that everybody knew that it was all right to laugh at the movie.”
So, R.I.P. the JACK FROST series. But part 2 does have some moments, mostly later on.
Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport, SAVAGE WEEKEND), the sheriff of the small town of Snowmonton, is still traumatized by that time he had to stop a serial killer whose consciousness had been transferred into a snowman. Of course, most people don’t believe it even happened. When he recounts the story to his psychiatrist (Ian Abercrombie, FIREWALKER, ARMY OF DARKNESS, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, WILD WILD WEST, GARFIELD A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES), the rest of the staff listen in on a speaker phone and giggle (in my opinion unethical). I like that Sam wears his full uniform to his appointment, for some reason.
He’s paranoid that Jack will return for Christmas, so Anne drags him on a tropical vacation with Marla and her husband Joe (Chip Heller, DEAD HEAT) to get his mind off things. Little do they know that the FBI has dug up Jack’s antifreezed remains for testing and accidentally resurrected him when a janitor (Brett Boydstun, returning as “Idiot”) spilled coffee into the tank. You know – the same as if a dead Jason gets hit by lightning, obviously a liquid Jack Frost mixing with coffee means he would come back to life. It’s science.
Still voiced by Scott MacDonald (FIRE IN THE SKY), the mischievous poor-man’s-Chucky spends most of the movie as a liquid or off-camera presence, making it easy for him to travel across the ocean. I take it as a reference to JAWS: THE REVENGE that he has a psychic link with Sam and follows him to the (unspecified?) island.
They go to a resort that is mainly just a small Tiki-ish bar and a path through some woods. It’s run by wacky Colonel Hickering (Ray Cooney), who wears a safari hat and talks nostalgically about his British colonialist days. There’s a bartender named Bobby (Tai Bennett, JOHN DIES AT THE END) who has maybe a Jamaican accent and wears a t-shirt with a design that looks vaguely Caribbean but says “Australia.” There’s also a dude named “Captain Fun” (Sean Patrick Murphy, “Shuttle Co-Pilot,” AVATAR) who gets in Sam’s face about being too grumpy and tries to pressure him to do activities. He seems like he watched ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES and thought Peter MacNicol was playing it too subtle.
And there are a bunch of sex/murder object women around. One of them Jack kills gorily by turning into an ice anvil and dropping on her head. He also gets breathlessly excited to turn into an ice cube that a bikini model uses to perk up her nipples during a photo shoot – then she swallows him in an iced coffee and her head explodes (?). When remains start showing up the Colonel denies anything is wrong but his eye-patch wearing head of security (David Allen Brooks, SCREAM FOR HELP, MANHUNTER) reveals himself as a plastic-surgeried Agent Manners from part 1. He moved to an island to escape killer snowman trauma and now that Jack is back he teams with Sam to stop him.
I assumed the reason for the new setting was to avoid the hassle of shooting in snow and/or fake snow. That forced me to wonder if they regretted that decision when it meant faking a tropical island in a place with woods and no water using some bamboo poles and signs made out of poster board. But about halfway through Jack makes it snow, which lasts through the end of the movie. So really they weren’t taking shortcuts – they were being ambitious. I would also give Cooney credit for some planned camera moves and transitions that seem like he really was trying to make it cool, despite the cheap look.
Once the snow comes it gets more fun, partly because they actually show the snowman puppet occasionally, and partly because he’s doing ridiculous shit like throwing a snowball that somehow tears off a guy’s arm and causes a firehose blast of blood into a woman’s face. Unfortunately, many of the kills – often involving projectile icicles – are done with extremely rudimentary digital FX that, to me, ruin the joke. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because if it looks like a real horror movie, but the idea of it is silly, then it can be funny. This doesn’t look like a real movie at all. A commercial for a local used car lot, at best. It’s ironic because, as I talked about in the review for part 1, the idea was originally inspired by the CG in THE ABYSS, and was almost made as a $30 million Renny Harlin movie.
I did laugh when the crappy FX were done with actual solid objects, though. Sam and friends try a clever gambit to get Jack into a swimming pool filled with industrial coolant, but it doesn’t work this time, but he pukes up a snowball that later turns out to be a snow egg that hatches a snowbaby. I like that this happens in a kitchen with metal carts so it can play kind of like the facecrawler attack in the lab in ALIENS. And it’s quickly followed by this ridiculous take on a “stumbling into the monster’s nest” type scene:
Meanwhile the others keep trying to kill the snowbaby in a blender and a waffle iron and shit. Since it’s the no budget animation I didn’t dig it. But the cheapass GREMLINS scenes of crude puppets on strings hanging out at the bar did amuse me. Like, it’s kind of funny that one of them has an icicle mohawk.
There is one scene that I think achieves the high level of straight-faced absurdity I demand in a killer snowman movie. One of the snowbabies is bloodied, and Jack picks it up and nurtures it, but it dies in his hands. And it’s played very serious, as if it’s supposed to be sad.
See? Was that so hard? That’s what this movie should be.
I like when they throw in an idea that is arguably even kind of cool. Like there’s a part where Anne is inside Jack’s body and she just sees walls made of snow and icicles start poking in at her like an iron maiden. I also thought it was an homage to the opening nightmare scene of DAY OF THE DEAD, although the screengrab I made looks more like THE SHINING.
A more traditionally jokey part that did get me is when Marsha and her husband are cleaning up the bloodbath at the bar (not sure why this is their responsibility) and using tongs to dispose of a severed arm in a trash bag, and Marsha notices on the dead person’s watch that it’s after midnight and therefore their anniversary.
Also I thought it was funny when Sam shot an arrow with a banana attached to it. Because Jack is allergic to bananas. I heard Bong Joon-ho got the idea for PARASITE from JACK FROST 2.
During the credits there’s a hacky joke with badly dubbed Japanese actors seeing a giant Jack Frost (you get it? Like Godzilla? The movies are dubbed?). Apparently this sets up the part 3 Cooney wanted to make. In Cooney told Justin Beahm in an unpublished Fangoria interview, “It was going to be set in the city, and Jackzilla, this giant snowman, attacks a skyscraper, enveloping it and killing people by coming in through the vents and all of that.”
Actually, that sounds kind of good.
I’ll say this about JACK FROST 2: it has a lenticular cover of an animated snowball monster projecting from Jack Frost’s mouth. No, the movie doesn’t live up to that, but isn’t that true of all lenticular covers? Without movies that need an extra push, would there be any subject matter for artists who work in the medium of lenticulation?
Merry Christmas everybody. Or happy Wednesday.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.