Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back on the Slopes…
When the Wisconsin weather takes a turn for the worse, a group of young snowmobilers are forced to take refuge in a nearby abandoned campground, one that was previously operated by a squirrelly religious order. Their presence stirs up the supernatural pot, and a demonic force is unleashed upon them, turning them against each other and killing them one by one. It’s EVIL DEAD in the snow!
No, not really; but I believe that’s kind of what they were aiming for. Had a little more thought and care gone into this movie, maybe it could have come close. Instead, it’s just another middling horror production that relies on tired taboos and cheap occult references to keep us watching. Some decent scenes could have been great with better direction and execution, but it all seems rushed and thoughtless.
Just because this isn’t a great movie doesn’t mean that there’s nothing here to discuss. For instance, the snowmobilers are comprised of four couples—six people—and if you think those numbers don’t quite add up, you’re partially correct. There’s football player Ron and Lissa (Jim Cagle and Eve Montgomery); Tom and Jeannie (Aaron Kjenaas and Dawn Laurrie); and medical doctor Chris and Karen (David Fields and Connie Snyder). But there’s also a hidden, taboo couple among them: siblings Tom and Karen.
This incestuous subplot is introduced at a local bar, where Tom caresses Karen’s shapely bottom in full sight of their significant others, who watch on with mouths agape. Following this particular scene, it’s rarely mentioned and only occasionally hinted at, and has little to no effect on the plot, which makes its inclusion all the more unusual.
I suppose one could try to give credit to THE CHILL FACTOR for progressively having an interracial couple amongst the leads: white boy Ron is with black girl Lissa, which earns the ire of one of the locals—a reaction that could sadly be seen happening today, so of course it was happening decades ago, too. An argument could be made that it would have been even more progressive if her race was never mentioned or made an issue of. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because Ron would have spoiled it a short time later when he tells Lissa that she’s the only black girl who sings off key.
I’ve watched the film, and I’m still rather unclear on the nature of the religious group that used to operate out of the camp that our heroes seek shelter in. The place is called Camp St. Dominic, it’s located on Black Friar Lake, and their motto was “Keep the Beast in the field”, so they were no doubt up to something nefarious. Why else would they have a Haitian Devil’s Eye board—think a cross between a Ouija board and the spinner from Twister—in their possession?
This was the first time that I had heard of a Devil’s Eye board, and a rudimentary internet search turned up nothing to convince me that it wasn’t merely an invention of the filmmakers. Still, it looks pretty cool and would be easy enough to replicate if any industrious horror fans are looking for a new tool to communicate with the dead. But I expect a freebie for giving you the idea.
As I’ve said before, THE CHILL FACTOR (also known as DEMON POSSESSED) may aspire to be a snow-packed version of EVIL DEAD, but it’s a far cry from it. EVIL DEAD was filled with heart and inventive action, while this film feels like a cheap knock-off in a new locale. It brings very little of anything new to the table, and is mostly a dull and uninspired mess. The whole ordeal is narrated by an aged Jeannie in a voice over that feels tacked on to give the story structure.
It doesn’t work.
As always, there were a few enjoyable moments to be found amongst the wreckage. There’s a pretty great snowmobile crash that sends Tom flying face-first into a tree; and another scene that features an ocular impalement by icicle. And although the scene itself was a bit lame, kudos (I guess) to THE CHILL FACTOR for (probably) being the first film to feature death by ceiling fan—and that’s to say nothing of the climactic snowmobile chase between human and demon!
THE CHILL FACTOR was written by Julian Weaver, whose only other credits are horror films TRAPPED ALIVE (1988) and THE INHERITOR (1990). It was directed by Christopher Webster, who has no other director credits, but has produced HELLRAISER (1987), HELLRAISER 2 (1988), HEATHERS (1988), MEET THE APPLEGATES (1990), DEADGIRL (2008), and a number of others.
None of the cast went on to make a name for themselves in the movie business, with perhaps one minor exception. If the IMDb is to be believed, the narration was provided by Barbara Claman, who was never actually seen onscreen. She remained offscreen for the rest of her career as a casting agent, finding talent for dozens of films and television shows.
Barbara knows that the old adage remains true: There’s more than one way to succeed in show business. Not being visible in this movie certainly didn’t hurt.