Winterbeast (1991)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-11-07 10:14

Written and directed by: Christopher Thies
Starring: Tim R. Morgan, Mike Magri, Charles Majka & Bob Harlow

Reviewed by: Brett H.

ďI think you got a hold of some bad whiskeyÖĒ
ďThe baddest, man! I donít pay top price for that brand name stuff. This gives a better kick.Ē

I have this weird thing for winter themed horror movies; I guess itís the Canuck filtering out of me. I also have a thing for bad horror movies, but Iím not quite sure where that comes from. Indian legends in horror flicks have never done me wrong either, and perhaps thatís more of Canuck oozing out. For once, I donít need to choose between A,B or C from the qualities mentioned, Winterbeast is all of the above. If youíve never heard of the film before, youíre not alone. My searches for snowy horrors turned me onto it and I just had to give it a whirl. I didnít expect it to be anything good because the filmmakers never tricked me into believing that it would be. If you want to pick up the DVD, youíre going to have to go through the official website, which amounts essentially to a shrine paying tribute to the moustache-affiliated bewilderment that makes up this truly hilarious low budget b-screamer.

Bill Whitman (Tim R. Morgan) and his partner Stillman (Mike Magri) are a couple of forest rangers that keep the paths of Indian Legend State Park on Mount Choccura safe. One of Sergeant Whitmanís rangers has recently gone missing, and heís hell bent on finding the poor fellow. No one else really gives a shit, mind you. It turns out thereís something up on the mountain that some believe in, but few will speak of. Legend has it that Choccura holds its share of secrets, not only are there demons running around up there, but itís the gateway to hell itself! Whitman is unscathed by this, itís his duty to make sure all the tourists are safe, and shit, heís not going to let some stupid legend get in his way! Along with Ranger Stillman and a local artefact collector (who has all the right books), Whitman dares to brave the vast peak in search of old secrets armed only with an ever-evolving moustache, a seventies car and a flare gun to battle the ancient demon known only as Winterbeast. Or, something like that.

Winterbeast is a classic example of indie underdog spirit having the ability to win over an audience. Is the film a piece of crap? Shit, yes; but itís lovable crap that writhes in its own ineptness to create a genuine and charming low budget experience. With gobs of cheesy stop-motion creatures, Indian zombie mummies, a gratuitous tit shot and unpredictable moustache shade/density, how can a cheesy movie buff go wrong? Perhaps most importantly of all, it portrays the forest rangers of the world as they truly are; the noble and courageous heroes of mankind. A lot of b-movies get lost in the realm of boredom with slow pacing, but such is not the case with the demons of Mt. Chocurra because you literally have no idea what is coming next. Or why, for that matter, but thatís all part of the fun. It would be asinine to tear a film such as this down because it never makes itself to be anything but what it is. A complete and total price-slashed drive-in exercise of demonic excess.

As laughable as the film is, what sets it alongside all of the other examples of treasurable drek out there is that it actually succeeds in various aspects. In this respect, these no budget tribulations represent a quality much more invigorating than what could be found if the film was merely average. Winterbeast has a surreal and archaic comic book hued aura about it accompanied by strange camera angles that provide a glimpse into the care that was taken in the making of the film. A no-budget flick has to be made from the heart to have heart, and thatís the feeling one gets when viewing this film. The stop motion creatures range from a totem pole (I think) coming to murderous life to monstrous reptilians and birds. No b-flick would be complete without a greedy villain, and the film shines with the quirky performance of Bob Harlow, who acts somewhere between an old man faking interest in conversation and blatant homosexuality. A scene involving a Gacy-like clown mask and decaying corpses is genuinely disturbing. Only in Winterbeast would a scene so out there seem to intermingle beautifully with other shit that has no business melting together.

I can recall viewing the movie Witchtrap and falling in love with itís hokeyness due to the character of Tony Vincente. In a normal film, his bad-ass Ash-inspired role would go to an ex-marine or a muscle-head, but no, Vincente is an ex-cop turned security guard who saves the day. In Winterbeast, the character of Sergeant Whitman is very similar in the underdog forest ranger role. He had big dreams of becoming a cop, but he ended up falling short of his goal and winds up back at the park being just another ranger people scoff at. But at least he finally shines and gets his chance to be the hero. It may as well be referring to the microcosm of the b-movie world where the little guys still can hold some power. Sergeant Whitmanís moustache constantly changes color and thickness and we donít know why, but he is true and brave amidst all of the absurdity. Somehow in this sea of blistering confusion and hilarity, Whitman is the best possible character that could have been presented.

As mentioned before, the Winterbeast DVD is available from the official website and the disc packs one hell of a punch. Expectedly, the video quality leaves something to be desired, it ranges from tolerable to poor and the audio has hiss. I donít know how much better such a film can look without extensive restoration, and the testament that itís available at all is cause for celebration. The disc is absolutely packed with an audio commentary, making of featurette, deleted scenes, shot on video unused footage, still galleries and more unadvertised goodies you have to search for in the form of at least one Easter egg. This disc will answer most, shit, all questions one could ever ask about Winterbeast, extensively covering everything (including why Iím using so many shits in this review) anyone could ever ask about it. At the beginning of its production, it seemed like the film was meant to be a super cheap winter version of The Evil Dead, which would have been really bad-ass. As we all know, many, many things pop up in low budget filmmaking and what weíre left with is still very entertaining. With the reek of cheese spanning from Wisconsin to France, Winterbeast is a delight for schlock fans and the DVD is so overflowing with interesting content that everyone should give it at least one chance. Rent it!

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