JACK FROST (1997) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Michael Cooney
Vinegar Syndrome

JACK FROST literally nips at noses and more on Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo HD restoration.

On the eve of his midnight execution, serial killer Jack Frost's (Scott MacDonald, JARHEAD) attempted escape is foiled when the transport truck collides with a tanker carrying a top secret acidic compound. Doused with the chemical, his flesh and bone are reduced to a puddle of goo that bonds with the snow and gives him the ability to freeze and unfreeze at will. He then uses his newfound powers to take revenge against the town of Snowmonton – and its sheriff Sam (SAVAGE WEEKEND's Christopher Allport) who captured him – in the form of "the world's most pissed off snow cone." No one believes the sheriff's son Ryan (Zack Eginton) when he blames the snowman for a freak accident that decapitates bully Billy (Nathanyael Grey) – then again, no one believes old-timer Paul (F. William Parker, LOST HIGHWAY) when he tries to warn them of the same thing – but the subsequent brutal murders of Billy's equally disagreeable father (Jack Lindine) and timid mother (Kelly Jean Peters, LITTLE BIG MAN) draw the attention of FBI agent Manners (Stephen Mendel, THE VINDICATOR) and scientist Stone (Rob LaBelle, WATCHMEN) who are after the experiment's unintended guinea pig under the guise of hunting a fictitious serial killer. Miffed at having the town's first murder case taken out of his hands, Sam does some investigating of his own – with the help of coroner Doc Peters (Paul Keith, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) and his trusty deputies (MY DEMON LOVER's Marsha Clark, JOYRIDE's Brian Leckner, and RAMPAGE's Chip Heller) – and must band the town against the frozen menace.

Not to be confused with the 1998 family film JACK FROST in which Michael Keaton plays a father who dies in a car accident and comes back as a snowman, this JACK FROST is an occasionally funny and ambitious but creatively bankrupt attempt at a slasher franchise. The budget deficiencies – from cotton and foam substituting as snow thanks to the warmest Big Bear winter to the use of editing to "animate" the snowman during some of the kill scenes – are less to blame than the uninspired one-liners ("I only axed you for a cigarette") and uneven tone of comedy and mean-spiritedness. Half the performers do not seem to realize they are in a comedy, with Allport, MacDonald (when he is actually onscreen), and Clark proving the most engaging. Shannon Elizabeth (SCARY MOVIE) makes a rather inauspicious feature debut getting raped by the snowman when he materializes in her bath and humps her to death. The film spawned a sequel in 2000, and has since developed something of a cult following that is more bewildering than the idea that someone actually greenlighted this project.

Released direct to VHS by A-Pix, followed by a DVD from Simitar and a later reissue from A-Pix successor Ardustry/Allumination in a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer with 2.0 and 5.1 options. Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from a 2K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative and really is better than the film deserves. The image is bright and colorful, showing off the film's ropey effects to their best along with the more creative lighting and composition of DP Dean Lent (GAS, FOOD, LODGING) while also calling even more attention to the cotton and foam snow and the shot construction used to "animate" the snowman during his kills. Audio options include the 5.1 mix in DTS-HD Master Audio and a Dolby Digital 2.0 option. The 2.0 mix is serviceable but the 5.1 sounds fuller during the film's gore and action set-pieces. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Besides a director's introduction (0:37), director Michael Cooney also provides an audio commentary track in which he reveals that the project's inspirations were THE ABYSS' ILM-animated water creature and SHOCKER's concept of an executed serial killer able to seek vengeance from beyond the grave by transformation into another form. He reveals that his original script demanded a higher budget and that Renny Harlin (PRISON) was initially interested but the script was nixed by then-wife Geena Davis (THE FLY) who wanted to do CUTTHROAT ISLAND instead. He also discusses the various production troubles, including the lack of snow due to a draught and a warmer than usual winter in Big Bear. In "Happy Scary" (16:00), actor MacDonald discusses his enjoyment of the role and commends Cooney for what he was able to achieve with the odds against him, while in "Shooting Frost" (6:10), cinematographer Lent reflects on the film's popularity over his more auspicious credits and describes his workarounds for the lack of snow, including tighter angles than planned and upward tilted shots. The combo comes with a reversible cover while the limited edition available directly from Vinegar Syndrome includes a lenticular cover. (Eric Cotenas)