on 13 February 2013
Words cannot really encapsulate my strange enjoyment of this movie (admiration and love are both too strong words for this feeling).
Basically a cut-price EVIL DEAD rip off, Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (on-screen title: WENDIGO) doesn't have a lot to recommend it, at least on the face of it, but none the less is quite an entertaining hour and a half. Some, most critics in fact, have taken it to task for it's slavish copying of Sam Raimi's infinitely superior Evil Dead films, particularly EVIL DEAD II, but I personally admire this aspect of the film. Think of it more as the film equivalent of one of those tribute covers records, where many different bands do all the songs on a classic album. Frostbiter wears it's influences on it's sleeve (even including a torn poster of EVIL DEAD II, both a nod to the classic and to Evil Dead's similar tribute to The Hills Have Eyes), which is a lot more honest than some other Sam Raimi/Evil Dead influenced film-makers (like the watered down hack, Edgar Wright). The presence of one Tom Hitchcock, Stop motion animator/miniature creator of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, under multiple miniature/compositing/stop motion credits strengthens the Michigan based productions' EVIL DEAD connections, and both Bruce Campbell and David Goodman get Special Thanks too.
The basic elements of the Evil Dead movies are here, whether they're appropriate to the Native American Wendigo myth or not - the cabin (this time covered in snow as is the rest of the woodland, perhaps a homage to The Thing?), the monsters, the possession, the humour, the unexpected heroics, the often-ropey practical effects, the wonderful stop motion, but there's enough of a twist to make it a good choice when you've worn out your Evil Dead II VHS or are scared the DVD or Blu-ray has been played so much, Bruce Campbell's chin will be permanently burned onto your television. The acting is generally awful, but often fun. The effects are ropey and totally ineffective, but again add to the fun. The camera work, storytelling and writing are all way below the standards of the Evil Dead series, which shouldn't surprise ANYONE, but this film is able to turn it's "absolute insane chaos - Evil Dead II style!" strategy into something likely to raise a smile, if not exactly raise the pulse. So having said that, only you know if you're interested in the movie.
Notable Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo facts:
- Not only are scenes from the then Public Domain "It's a Wonderful Life" used as a contrast to the chaos (an idea previously used in Gremlins), the scenes set on the mainland (most of the movie is on an island) also occur in Bedford Falls (as did "It's a Wonderful Life"). Note also the news stations call sign - BDFD.
- Filmed in the late eighties, rather than the late nineties, where the copyright places it.
- Ron Asheton, the late guitarist for The Stooges (and bassist for Iggy & The Stooges, the Raw Power incarnation), plays a major role in the film. Watching the man who wrote the "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" riffs ham it up like a middle-aged Bruce Campbell is a wonderful thing.
- Troma claim the film was based on a comic book from Caliber Press, but that was in fact pressed AFTER the film as a promotional item. Why they would lie about this, I do not know.
The DVD has some Troma produced extras, a ridiculous and apparently unrelated music video where Ron Asheton and his son sing a cringeworthy duet about "Bitchin' Babes" (I don't know what this is, but it made me question my life choices, beginning with "Why am I watching this?"), a historian talking about the Wendigo, an awful intro with the then Troma team etc. Picture is a full-screen video master, stereo...as expected. Doubt this one will ever be reissued. Director Tom Chaney later did the more straight Mosquito, with Gunner "Leatherface" Hanson.