The Chill Factor (1993)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the slopes.
Year of Release: 1993
Also Known As: Demon Possessed
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 85 minutes (1:25)
Director: Christopher Webster
Dawn Laurrie ... Jeannie
Aaron Kjenaas ... Tom
Connie Snyder ... Karen
David Fields ... Chris
Eve Montgomery ... Lissa
Jim Cagle ... Ron
An unsuspecting student falls prey to demonic powers and becomes "possessed" when he and his friends stumble onto occult murder in the remote Northwoods. After Tom is severely injured in a snowmobile race, he and the others must take shelter in a deserted children's camp once run by a secret religious cult.
As the long night wears on, an innocent game with a ouija board activates the satanic spirit of the camp. Tom soon dies, and while thought to be resting, the demon invades Tom's body and mysteriously cures him. The "fiend" now begins his evil treachery. One by one the "campers" succumb to the demon's power. Only Jeanny escapes. However, she is puzzled by the sheriff's comment that the camp that had "sheltered" them had actually burned down years ago. Moments later, Jeanny also disappears... the last victim.
The Chill Factor, remindin' us that tennis nets kill more college coeds than marijuana and critical race theory combined.
And speakin' of manufactured calamities, we had one of our annual 13,000 car pileups out on I-84 last week. A cause has yet to be determined, but the smart money's on Portlanders' continued insistence that they're capable of navigatin' winter weather conditions while simultaneously placin' bids on antique furniture over the phone as part of a remote auction to help benefit the federation of geriatric drag queens.
'Course this happens every year, so the Department of Transportation is pretty on toppa things, having taken the time to arrange the necessary ambulance services, tow trucks, and a backdoor channel to the local hospitality industry with estimates detailing the degree to which hotels and restaurants can reasonably gouge for their services. Unfortunately, this year's carmageddon was so extensive that the towns behind the wreck were unable to accommodate all the displaced motorists, and so we got stuck pickin' up the slack.
Now, lemme just state upfront that I have nothin' against city people. I understand the frustration of bein' born into a world where ya can't walk five blocks without bein' spiritually assaulted by hippy street performers in sundresses playin' Enya's greatest hits on the recorder, so when Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks started fillin' up with what appeared to be a casting call for a nationwide ad blitz for the GAP, I was receptive for these folks' need for sympathy.
"Hope ya got a truckload of Zima parked out back, 'cause if not things're gonna get ugly in here," I hollered to Mack through the saloon doors.
Mack just stuck his arm out the serving hatch and let me know that I was #1 in his heart before wavin' B.J. Wilder and Peggy Pogue back to the kitchen to work out their plan to serve a packed house with just the three of 'em.
If I'm bein' honest mosta these people were fine to be around, which ain't that surprisin' since they were all quiet, miserable, semi-frozen iPhone zombies just tryna get their bearings. Woulda been a pretty dull evenin' if not for this one broad wearin' a miniskirt and carryin' some pitiful creature whose ancestors were once dogs in 'er purse while screamin' about "inbred hicks" into 'er cell phone.
"Whaddya think - Portland or Seattle?" I asked Cleave, who was tryna examine his menu while a voice that could grate cheese burrowed into his brain.
"Vegas," Sadie interjected.
"Where'd ya get that?" I asked, lookin' back at the harpy tryna figure out what Sadie was seein' that I wasn't.
"Hickey on 'er neck's at least three days old, and the cigar burn on her arm screams goodfellas," she shrugged.
"You're all terrible," Roxanne chided, stiflin' a giggle.
"Maybe she's just having a bad day. She probably just needs someone to talk to," Mrs. Sadie sympathized.
"Seems like she has that. At least until whoever's on the other end commits suicide," Cleave posited.
Took about 20 minutes for Mack to come over and take our order and by that time the banshee's little runt of a dog'd either been released or escaped its pursely bonds and started wanderin' around the diner eatin' fries off the floor.
"Want me to get 'er outta here?" I asked Mack as calmly as I could manage while the skanky little pocket pooch gnawed my shoelaces.
"I don't think you've got what it takes," Mack grumbled.
"Want ME to throw 'er out?" Sadie offered.
"Look, I don't want any trouble," Mack decided after momentarily entertainin' the offer.
"I didn't say I was gonna *throw* her out," I objected.
"I said no!" Mack bellowed loud enough to get half the place lookin' in our direction.
So I decided to drop it. Honest - if Mack didn't want me gettin' involved, well, it's his place, so I'd just sit in my chair munchin' my Agony of Beefeat burger, mindin' my own business, sustainin' permanent hearing damage in the name of tolerance.
"What's the difference?! It's all disgusting redneck chow anyway! Just bring me whatever that greasy ape of a cook can manage to fry up without dribbling Copenhagen juice into it!" the Karen shrieked at B.J. when she tried takin' 'er order.
Debbie managed to grab B.J.'s arm before she tacked the gal's hand to the table with a steak knife, but B.J.'s crop of give-a-damns'd apparently frosted and failed this year.
"Get that bitch outta here," she whispered as she leaned past me to set out our drinks.
"Why do you automatically assume I have some devious plot in mind for removing that young woman from the establishment?" I queried.
"'Cause you're a conniving, scheming little twerp?" she suggested.
"That hurts, B.J.," I pouted.
"Fine - a conniving, scheming little twerp who wants his meal comped," she amended.
"Alright, I'll do it. But I'm still wounded," I moped.
"Oh yar not, ya big baby," B.J. groaned, givin' me a friendly smooch on the temple as I tried vainly to fight 'er off.
"Okay! Just move 'er to the front of the line, and bring 'er the meatloaf," I instructed, attempting to rub the lipstick off my face.
B.J. didn't ask any other questions - probably for plausible deniability purposes, but I was gonna need another lovely volunteer to pull off my plan.
"Hey Roxy--" I started.
"No," Cleave snarled, glarin' a hole through me and the Cow Puncher calender hangin' on the wall.
"Are you gonna let this caveman speak for ya? This ain't 1952, Cleave," I trolled.
"This better be good," Roxanne grimaced.
"Next time that little weasel dog comes over here grab 'im and keep 'im quiet," I instructed.
"That's it?" Roxanne side-eyed.
"The less you know, the better," Cleave shook his head.
About eight minutes later Roxanne had the dog, B.J. had the meatloaf, and I had my opening. I waited for B.J. to set the plate down, let the shrew take a coupla bites, and bolted towards her table to earn my bacon.
"For God's sake, don't let her eat that!" I shouted, rushing to the witch's booth and rippin' 'er plate out from under 'er.
"What?! Why?!" she demanded.
"I'm... so sorry, miss. See, your dog and I... we were in the kitchen, playin' frisbee," I sniffled.
"Poor little guy he... he climbed onto the counter and... he must notta seen the deep fryer and... there was nothin' I could do!" I wailed, having stolen a moment to pull a nose hair as she looked around for the missin' dog.
"You mean, this is..." she managed, holding back the vomit.
"Muttloaf!" I blubbered.
She made it outside before blowin' the two bites of meatloaf into the shrubs, and I got a standin' ovation from the regulars who could see that my story obviously didn't wash with what was on her plate and that it was all a ruse.
She did call the cops afterward, but because she didn't come back with Deputy Duggan and we were able to produce the dog nothin' came of it. Mrs. Sadie convinced the boss to let 'er keep the dog, which was probably the best thing that coulda happened to the miserable little rodent, and they named it Priscilla. Cute. Prolly won't quit my night job, but everybody seemed to enjoy the dinner theater, and at the end of the day I would do anything for love, or lacking that, a free burger.
After dinner I invited everybody over to check out this flick about stranded snowmobilers in the Northern Wisconsin wilderness, only Mrs. Sadie said she was gonna veto the plan unless she got to see a love story and so I hadda explain that the film had a romantic subplot to win 'er over. 'Course I didn't tell 'er that the romantic subplot involved a mega-ditz who's too dumb to realize 'er boyfriend's possessed by a Quija board demon, but I delivered the snowbound aardvarkus I promised. Basically we got The Evil Dead of Winter, and although I question whether any of the sagely insight contained herein is the result of any deliberate effort on the part of the filmmakers, there's no denyin' that this baby's loaded with neurological nutrients, and these're a few of my personal favorites. First, demonic possession may seem like an effective way to reinvigorate your sex life, but'cher incubeau's prolly gonna be thinkin' about your dead girlfriends the whole time. Second, if the devil assigns you to a possession gig in the dead of Wisconsin winter, assume he's not pleased with your job performance. And third, snowmobile technology has come a long way, but it's still no match for a sturdy barb wire fence.
The movie begins with a buncha powder junkies (Jeannie, Tom, Karen, Chris, Lissa, and Ron) ridin' their snowmobiles around Wisconsin lookin' for a decent line till their cans start freezin' up and they hafta pull into a bar where this fat slob who peaked in 4th Grade dodge ball starts hasslin' the black gal (Lissa) for 'er part in the decline of the master race. Lissa tries to defuse the situation by claimin' to be a cheerleader for the Packers but Milwaukee's Pest persists until Lissa's chunkhead boyfriend (Ron) hasta knock the guy's snuff so far down his throat that he ends up with mouth cancer of the rectum. Then everybody washes down their grease platters with a refreshing cheese lager and all seems well until Tom and Chris start blowin' exhaust up eachother's asses about how they coulda gone snowmobile pro if they weren't so busy satisfyin' the needs of all the desperate supermodel housewives of Green Bay and teachin' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar how to perfect his hook shot. Clearly, this rivalry can only be settled with a winner-take-all race or the two guys gettin' a motel room and explorin' their repressed inner desires. Thankfully they choose the race, which culminates in Tom takin' a short cut over a toppled fishin' shanty on a frozen lake and tappin' a nearby maple tree with his face, so now Karen and Ron hafta find shelter before Tom freezes solid and ends up an exhibit in some huckster's traveling sideshow. Fortunately, Karen and Ron stumble across an abandoned Catholic ski lodge while the others spatula Tom's brains off the tree to prepare 'im for transport, and once Tom's safely inside Subzero's Mountain Retreat, Ron decides to ride his Yamaha Exciter 30 miles through a blizzard in the dark with only his athletic scholarship to protect 'im. After a while Tom wakes up and makes a little small talk to ease the tension and by this point everyone's feelin' relieved enough to break out the Milton Bradley Devil's Compass game they find under the coffee table to see if they can contact the spirits of the Donner Party.
This thing's basically what you'd get if Twister had sex with a Ouija Board, and the moment Jeannie starts makin' collect calls to the hereafter somethin' gets P.O.'d and makes the arrow start spinnin' around like the blade on a Lawn Boy and causes Tom's gutbucket to do the Loco-Motion just as Ron gets his jaw barb-wired shut on a fence. Tom recovers from his bout of torso turbulence pretty quickly, so Chris and Karen climb into one of the bunks and start makin' the sign of the ectoplasmic frost iguana while Lissa roots around in an office and uncovers evidence that the previous owners spent a lotta time at Anton Lavey's house till somethin' cloaked and bony shows up and starts performin' the Marquis de Sade's greatest hits with a gradually descending ceiling fan as Tom smirks like a trust fund Tik Toker. Pretty quick Chris discovers the aftermath of Lissa's tit and the pendulum demonstration and hasta step outside before it permanently puts 'im off lasagna, only while he's out there he looks up at the eave of the roof and gets the ole icicle lobotomy through the eyeball and vindicates Malinda Dillon's admonition from A Christmas Story. 'Course by this point Tom's feelin' a lot better and wants to get off the cot, so while Karen's accidentally hangin' 'erself with a tennis net in the activity room like a depressed tuna, Tom sits up and shows off his supernatural healin' prowess to Jeannie and she's so impressed that she lets 'im poke 'er with his regenerative genitalia. The kinkubus lets 'er sleep until mornin', but she's a lot sharper'n the other gals, and so when she finds everyone murdered she thinks maybe somethins wrong. She asks the ghoulette wheel what happened until she eventually gets the low down from the inter-dimensional switchboard operator and decides to get 'er hinder outta there, only by now she's got a hot-doggin' boondocker demon up 'er tunnel with 30 miles between herself and the nearest igloo. This's about as far as I'm gonna go, but you may wanna say a little prayer to Bill Rebane and the gods of Wisconsin filmmakin', 'cause the demon's sled has a turbo on it and Jeannie's ridin' stock.
Alrighty, demon-possessed snowmobilers in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin - when ya hear a description like that it's almost inconceivable that Bill Rebane didn't have a hand in it, but even though Bill's probably the most famous schlock master in Badger State history, there's been a fairly steady spray of Rebaneless Cheez Whiz oozin' down from Wisconsin since the 1970s, includin' flicks like The Pit, Blood Beat, Blood Hook, and Bog. Among that drip of nacho sauce was The Chill Factor, which was part of a three picture-deal produced at the now-defunct Windsor Lake Studios near Eagle River, which has seen a recent population explosion that sent the town crashing through the 1500 barrier after decades hovering around a mere 1300. You might rightly ask why anyone would build a movie studio in the middle of nowhere for the privilege of shootin' movies in an area where the average winter temperature hovers around -20, but you've gotta understand - they were British. The other two titles comprisin' this deal were Trapped Alive, and The Inheritor, with a combined total budget of 1.5 million bucks for the three, and unfortunately the first two movies went a little overboard and left The Chill Factor with less to work with.
Windsor Lake Studios folded in 1992, but the upside of this geographically bungled venture was that Eagle River was, and is, host to the World Championship Snowmobile Derby, and consequently the stunt director was able to hire some of the era's best riders for his stunt sequences, includin' a pretty dangerous one over open water that woulda froze the guy's ass solid after about five minutes of exposure had he sunk. It's a bummer about Windsor Lake Studios, 'cause even though few regionally produced indie productions ever really break out into the big time there's a certain uniqueness to them, and even the bad ones prove memorable - which in my estimation is proof positive that the guys makin' 'em were doin' something right. There may well be ten William Grefes, Bill Rebanes, and Al Adamsons for every Tobe Hooper that eventually makes it to the big time, but they all represent a period when you could take chances with concepts that'd be struck down as unmarketable in the modern world. Admittedly, that determination would likely have been the right decision in most cases, but oddities like The Chill Factor can often satisfy a person's desire for something different - even if it's silly.
That's probably about as much lipstick as this hog's gonna let me slather on it, so let's open up the throttle on this thing and find out how long it lasts before the motor blows. The plot, which is the only piece of the puzzle that should be immune to budgetary constraints, is a muddled mess of screenwriting hackery. It probably warrants mentioning that the writer has a career spanning exactly three films, and if you guessed that the three scripts were for the three aforementioned pictures produced back-to-back by Windsor Lake Studios, you've earned yourself a Walnetto. I'm obviously not the only one that found the film disjointed, because while it was being pieced together in post production they decided the only way to tie everything together would be to hire a narrator to help fill in the blanks - didn't really work, but it was a good thought. Smaller problems include a paradox wherein the Ouija board releases the demon and then warns the final girl to get 'er hinder outta the house 'cause her boyfriend's got the devil inside 'im, and undefined rules that grants the demon telekinesis with which to waste everyone but the sole survivor 'cause... he ran outta mana, or somethin'. I dunno. And if you know what Karen was trying to reach up on that chair before she ended up strangled in the tennis net, please write in and let me know. You might also expect some follow-up with the bar slobs from the opening sequence, but nope! Never happens. The most egregious stuff happens in the last ten minutes so I'm not gonna go into most of it, but I will say that just about all the plot problems crop up during the last 40 minutes of the flick and that the only reason it takes that long for them to start is 'cause they forgot to have anything happen during the first 40.
The acting is uneven due to the relative inexperience of the cast and the abysmally stilted dialogue that even a seasoned professional couldn't save, and you can't help but wonder whether some (or all) of the cast realized they were doomed and decided to just phone it in. The language choices made by writer Julian Weaver are so unnatural that it makes you question whether the man ever had an actual interaction with a human being - not that that's somethin' I'd recommend in general, but if your goal is to create realistic representations of interpersonal relationships it might be a good idea to at least observe them in a manner that doesn't require a 5th story apartment and a telescope. I will say that they gave the most challenging role to the ablest castmember, as Aaron Kjenaas manages to add a mild sense of dread through the use of his facial expressions, but for the most part everyone is a bit south of where they needed to be to land another gig. Considering most of the cast never acted again it's possible that this was just a one-off deal that sounded like fun at the time, and that few of them ever had serious aspirations for a career in the business, but I'm just offerin' up charitable spitballs at this point. In short, they're all green, but nobody's bargain-basement terrible. Credit where credit's due though - the "football players don't get lost honey, they know where the end zone is," line was stupid enough to earn a chuckle.
Here's who matters and why: Jim Cagle (Spooked in Bridgewater), Bekki Vallin (Children of the Night 1991, Mindwarp, Severed Ties).
The special effects aren't bad given the budgetary restrictions, and while it hasta be said that the kills are pretty silly, they're certainly unique. Given the small cast we know goin' in that the effects will likely be limited on the basis that you can generally only kill somebody once, but the icicle through the eyeball scene is lit just well enough to give the audience the gist, while mostly hiding the dummy head. The icicles themselves are alright until the string tugging at them makes them move unnaturally, and the blood borders on pink at times while coming across as a bit sticky, but there's really nothing here to get bent outta shape about. Additionally, the old film reversal trick works pretty well during the snow groomer shot at the climax, and the snowmobile stunts and firesuit burn look fine. Essentially, the effects are about as good as can be expected under the circumstances, and there's really nothing here to be ashamed of.
The shooting locations are the movie's strongest asset, and you've gotta admire the grit necessary to drive your ass out into the freezin' cold of Northern Wisconsin to get excellent exteriors like these that greatly help to bolster the film's production values. It could be argued that cinematographer Joseph Friedman and production manager Alexandra Reed save this flick, because in the early going there's very little to appreciate beyond the aesthetic they capture/create in a landscape that most filmmakers don't want anything to do with due to the difficulties involved. The interiors were sets built inside Windsor Lake Studio, and despite not coming across well as a summer camp (think I'da tweaked the script to make it a hunting lodge), it's a pretty good cabin set that looks especially nice on the outside with all its gnarly 6' icicles. They also did a nice job decorating the interiors with disused furniture, cobwebbing, and dust to give the place a look of genuine abandonment, so even though you prolly don't wanna be relyin' on the set decorator to pull your movie's ass outta the fire, they definitely played a part in scorin' the flick some points.
The soundtrack is gonna finish us off on a downer, 'cause although it does have its moments, its tone is much too light for the subject matter. It's alright startin' off during the opening credits with an unusual combination of sorrowful strings and mildly upbeat piano, but from there it's all downhill with the inclusion of what sounds like a synthesized news broadcast bumper, light-hearted xylophone, sinister piano rendition of Three Blind Mice, and the return of the country song from the bar scene during the closing credits. I dunno who decided to bring that country tune back for the closin' credits, but they're lucky the movie was already shot to hell by that point, 'cause under no circumstances should that ever be the last thing you hear unless there's some country connection to the movie. The fiddle piece from Pumpkinhead, for instance - perfect. But Here? Absolutely brutal unforced error in the closing seconds of the flick, and the worst part is that they coulda just reused the track from the opening credits which better captures the mood they were hoping to achieve for the movie.
Overall, The Chill Factor's script and tonal failures cannot be overcome by its more endearing elements, and the plodding, disjointed story renders it pretty unenjoyable even from a pure entertainment perspective. It's probably worth a single watch just for the locations, but if you're looking for a low budget Winter flick that's both attractive and coherent, check out Ghostkeeper instead. The film's counterpart, Trapped Alive, is also marginally better if you wanna stick with Wisconsin.