CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Snowbeast (1977)

This entry was written by Bill Van Ryn, the man behind the always stupendous Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum. Bill knows more about movies than almost anyone I’ve ever met and is always there with an answer to my questions, no matter how trivial or dumb they may be.

A popular vacation spot, desperate for tourist dollars, is suddenly beset by a beast that kills people. This coincides with the big breadwinning season of the vacation spot, leading the people in charge to hush up the deaths and avoid spooking the tourists into bolting. In the post-Jaws 1970s, there was no limit to the number of movies that came along with this exact same plot. One of the most successful imitators was William Girdler’s 1976 flick Grizzly, which placed the action in a park and substituted a bear for a shark. 1977 TV movies Snowbeast distills this formula even further, making the park a Colorado ski resort and changing the grizzly to a bigfoot monster.  

Robert Logan and Sylvia Sidney play a grandson and grandmother who find their winter carnival interrupted by a monster that starts attacking and eating isolated people on the slopes — at one point, Logan says he can identify a victim’s body by looking at her face, and another character says “She doesn’t have it anymore.”  Sidney, of course, doesn’t want to admit that there is a problem at all, and advises Logan to keep it a secret. Bo Svenson is a former Olympic ski champion who has fallen on hard times and picks the wrong time to come to his old friend Logan for a job; I’m pretty sure entering into combat with a murderous bigfoot was not what he signed on for. Svenson’s wife, played by Yvette Mimieux, happens to be a former flame of Logan’s adding a love triangle to the story. Anyone who read the novel Jaws knows there was a love triangle in that story too, although it was not retained for the film version, so maybe nobody realized at the time just how deeply the screenwriter Joseph Stefano plunder the depths of Peter Benchley’s story. 

Although the violence is subdued enough for a TV movie, there are some moments of dread to be found here, like when one character is trapped in a wrecked RV and can’t escape the oncoming monster, which just comes right for him and slaughters him immediately. There’s also a very silly moment when the creature shows up to interrupt a rehearsal for a pageant. It smashes a window, causes a little hysterical panic (including a hilarious reaction shot from Sylvia Sidney), and then proceeds back to where it came, stopping along the way to kill a helpless parent who was just waiting to pick up her daughter from the rehearsal. 

Ultimately, camp is king in “Snowbeast”, and there is enough of that on hand to entertain this jaded viewer. Also, I enjoyed the outdoor photography, including some impressive tracking shots of characters skiing. 

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