Deep Freeze (2001)

(aka, Ice Crawlers)

One of the curious features of the modern B-Movie is the number of special effects experts who have gone on to direct movies.  Offhand, one thinks of people like David Allen, Chris Wallas and Brett Piper, although their number even includes a legend like Douglas Trumbull, who worked on 2001, then went on to direct both Silent Running and Brainstorm.

John Carl Buechler was another member of this elite club.  Like David Allen, he did a lot of work for Empire Films/Full Moon Features, on such films as Trancers, Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Android.  Empire’s Charles Band gave J.C. his first directing job: a segment of the anthology film Ragewar [The Dungeonmaster], a film which also featured a segment by David Allen.  I’ll admit that I think this was a deliberate choice on Charles’ part.

After all, the old school special effects experts didn’t just create monsters and imaginary worlds: they actually shot of the footage used in those scenes and often had to help create the live action components of those scenes to be sure it would all fit together.  They had to know how to frame the footage they shot for best effect, how to edit it together properly, and needed a clear vision of what it was all supposed to look like in the end.

Which means they were already doing some heavy duty direction.

Now the basic story here is…familiar.  The crew of an experimental Arctic drilling platform accidentally release a mysterious creature, which gets loose and starts killing everyone.

Which is a fairly standard sort of pattern for any horror film, although its Arctic setting should make you think of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

And even if it doesn’t, the fact that they reused the exterior footage and helicopter shots from John Carpenter’s film should be a dead giveaway even if Deep Freeze never acknowledges their source.  It was one of a handful of horror films Regent Films produced in the late-Nineties and early nothings.  However, their original planned budgets were far too optimistic and they had to scale them all down before they started filming.  As a result, it really isn’t too hard to see the cheap.  Not only don’t we have any recognizable stars (not even of the washed-up starring on Sci Fi Network variety), but their “prefabricated” platform is made out of cinderblocks which would need to be laid one at a time by experts.

Which is exactly what you would expect to find in the High School or University building where they shot this.

Now, I have to admit I admire one of their little plot twists: we are told that a group of good looking Twenty-Somethings are supposedly a group of Grad students who have been hired to carry out a UN mandated environmental inspection of the rig’s drilling methods.  We all know they’re there because the producers wanted to have a group of attractive young people in the movie for the usual reasons.  But darned if the film doesn’t come up with a convincing reason for their presence which becomes a major plot point!

I am in awe.

With Buechler on board, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the creature itself is not merely reasonably impressive, but moves well, gets used to great effect, and is shown sparingly until the end in classic monster movie style.  From the top, it looks much like the prehistoric creature that it is meant to be  — even if its underside doesn’t.

Storywise, Deep Freeze is better than your average B-Monster movie, as the plot more or less makes sense and a lot of the minor details are meaningful and prove important at the end.  The villain motivations are plausible (which gets rarer every day), and the explanation of how the creature got there isn’t too improbable.

We all know there are better B-Monster movies out there, and Deep Freeze isn’t even a minor classic like Deep Rising or Leviathan.

But it is still fun, and would grace any midnight movie marathon.

After all, it goes well with popcorn, a handful of friends…

And a bit of sarcasm.

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