DISCLAIMER: Today’s Halloween Horrors film is not particularly “Halloweeny”. Not in the slightest, actually. In fact, it takes place entirely in the snow, which doesn’t sound all that much like the Halloween season that I know and love, especially since I live in Florida. There are no decorations, costumes, spooky ghosts, or haunted houses. What there “is” is one REALLY hungry monster! Quite honestly, sometimes that is all you need.
The movie in question is the killer creature flick, Snowbeast, which originally aired back in 1977. Returning contributor Michelle Kinnison graces us with this look at the film, sharing with us her reasons for loving the movie as much as she does. Personally, I need no such convincing as it is one of my favorite made-for-television films. While it may not be layered in Halloween imagery or dark Gothic horror overtones, it’s still immensely entertaining, and gets watched around the H&S office at least once every few months, whether it be the Halloween season or not.
To help prove these convictions, I’ve included a link to the full film at the end of Michelle’s review. Hopefully, you will become as much of a fan of this film as we are.
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: April 28th, 1977
This wonderful little gem was discovered one night when my husband and I needed something new to watch, and add to our “It’s a gloomy day” movie regime. Looking through one of those boxes of 50 Chilling Classics, the title (and one of the main actors) struck us, and we thought, “let’s give it a try!”
Having actors like Robert Logan, Bo Svenson, and Clint Walker was appealing. It was directed by Herb Wallerstein (who had an unfortunate end when he was murdered in ’85, which is another story), who also directed many known TV series and was the senior VP of production with 20th Century Fox, overseeing production of films like Alien and 9 To 5. Also, with the teleplay being written by Joseph Stefano (who wrote the screenplay for one of Alfred Hitchcock’s, and one of horror’s, most notable films, Psycho), how could you not have a winner? Well, it surely became a classic for us, and one that we watch several times a year! So, let me share with you… Snowbeast!
“Now, you’ll have to go back out there.” “Nooo, I can’t!”
Our tale starts off at the beautiful mountain ski resort of Crested Butte, Colorado, and the Rill Lodge. For anyone who knows Colorado and the skiing it has to offer, Crested Butte in Gunnison is among one of the best. A little out of the way, but worth it…. if you’re into doing that in the winter AND don’t mind possibly running into a creature of unknown origin with a thirst for killing, which could put a damper on your snowy day out, as we soon find out for two young friends out enjoying the skiing. One friend, Heidi, seems uneasy and wants to stop for the day, but her friend, Jennifer, wants to keep going.
Further along, they see some strange tracks in the snow, something that gets put off by Jennifer as a joke. Upon further inspection and hearing a strange growl, Heidi takes off and leaves her friend on the slope. Unfortunately, it’s not a joke, and soon the beast emerges out of the woods and attacks Jennifer, leaving her screams to be heard by the retreating Heidi. Soon, our manager of the resort, Tony (who soon finds out that this adventure in the wilderness isn’t so family friendly, har har), goes on the search with the ski patrol to find the missing friend. Things turn bad when he finds broken skis and a torn, bloody jacket on the snow. However, he’s not alone. There, vanishing into the woods… is the beast! Tall, hairy, white, and a mix between the Yeti and the sasquatch, or maybe something new. Unsure, he heads back to the lodge.
Tony’s friends, Gar and Ellen, show up for the celebrations, a bit of vacation, and possibly a job in his hometown. Gar was a winner of the Olympics back in ’68, so a skiing job would be ideal, but strangely, he hasn’t been skiing since his winning. His wife is a TV journalist, which could pose a problem if she hears about the creature and missing guest. Gar waves Tony down when he sees him, but Tony is busy and on his way to try to convince his grandmother (and owner of the lodge), Mrs. Rill, that there’s something out there. Mrs. Rill seems much more concerned about her lodge and the celebration at hand than one of the missing guests and surely doesn’t want a story of a Bigfoot creature that kills people to spread through the town. So, they compromise on restricting the area where Jennifer went missing, hoping that this will work… for now.
In the meantime, one of the ski patrol members, Buster, who had helped Heidi originally, thinks he knows where Jennifer went missing. Even though Tony told him that he wasn’t allowed to go look, he does anyway. Unfortunately, he too has a run-in with the beast. After falling and then tumbling over to the edge of a ravine, barely hanging on, he gets a surprise! The beast shows up for an easy meal, grabs him by the head, and he’s gone!
Tony has a talk with Gar about what he’s seen, and wants to know if Gar is still a good marksman with a rifle. Gar has an open mind to what this beast may be. Since Ellen did a piece for TV about the infamous Sasquatch, he doesn’t want to go on a “monster hunt”. Soon, that decision will change.
Meanwhile… a young boy, out with his father at an old barn, discovers the remains of Jennifer in a water trough, and the Sheriff is notified of a possible murder. Ellen overhears that Tony is needed by the Sheriff, and heads out for her own investigation. While out, she does see the strange tracks and the bloody spot where Buster was taken, but doesn’t know the full story yet. Tony eventually shows up to have a chat with the Sheriff about what’s in the barn.
“I’m sure I’ll recognize her when I see her face.“, Tony says.
There’s a pause from the Sheriff. “She doesn’t have one.“
Tony, Gar, and the Sheriff go back to the trough and see what’s left of Jennifer, still talking about how Tony knows it’s her and what the plan is for the beast. Upon seeing what happened to the poor girl, Gar is in with the others to go out, hunt it down, and stop it. The story of a crazed bear out of hibernation is what will be used, per the Sheriff, in the meantime to keep things calmer for the lodge and the town. However, that doesn’t last long when things go bad at the Winter Carnival crowning at the school gym.
The beast shows up, trying to get into the school, and scares everyone preparing for the coronation of the Carnival Queen, Betty Jo. Panic and chaos ensue and everyone runs out, but the beast (not able to get into the school) goes after a lady in a vehicle that pulled up. Unable to restart her vehicle and get away, the beast smashes the window and attacks. Sadly, Betty Jo loses her mom, the driver, to the beast.
After everyone is cleared from the school, Gar returns to the lodge to find that Ellen isn’t there, and finally decides to get back on his skis and go out looking for her. After skiing for a while, Gar makes it to the barn and discovers that Ellen has been there waiting out the night and possibly hiding from the beast. They stay until morning, but when they try to leave, the remains of Buster fall from the rafters. Soon, the beast is at the door, trying to break in. Unable to, and hearing that snowmobiles are approaching, it runs off to the woods. Tony and the Sheriff find the couple safe. They return to the lodge, while the Sheriff stays out looking.
Sometime later, the Sheriff returns with a bear that he’s shot. There’s praise and thanks that the beast has been killed and that all things at the lodge will be safe again, but there is still uncertainty. Having further discussed with the Sheriff that the bear is not the killer, they decide to go out and truly look for the beast and end its killing spree.
Tony, Gar, Ellen, and Sheriff Paraday drive around looking for signs of the beast, but don’t find it. They return to their camper to find that the beast has been there and has destroyed the rack holding their skis. They decide to wait and have the beast come to them instead. Nothing happens until morning, when the beast lets loose a stack of logged trees, which come crashing down to the truck. Knocking it over with the Sheriff trapped inside, the other three flee when the beast comes to attack. Being dragged from the wreckage, the Sheriff is now the final victim of the attack.
After a while, Tony, Gar, and Ellen decide that they need to get back to the truck, get the rifles, and take care of this monster once and for all. Upon returning, they see that the Sheriff is gone. Moving logs out of the way, they try to get to the rifles and skis. Tony climbs into the cab and finds the revolver, at which time, the beast is returning. He takes a shot! With a shriek from the beast, Tony exclaims that he hit it. He tosses the gun to Gar and tells him to “Finish him!”, as it retreats to the woods. Gar shoots several more times until he’s out, but the beast keeps coming. Lodging a ski pole against a tree, Gar impales the beast when he’s close enough, and a horrid shriek fills the air. The beast is defeated, slowly backs away, and falls down a cliff and dies. It is over.
Sadly, when this was originally aired, it didn’t receive the best of reviews and was dubbed a “Jaws ripoff”. Having been concluded that it was a below average and weak entry into the horror genre, it seems to have taken some time before being released to home video, as the VHS wasn’t put out until 1987, some 10 years later. Then, not to DVD until 2009, and finally, having the Blu-ray release in 2018 (thanks to Retromedia). There seems to be a couple versions and runtimes given for this, one being the International cut, which seems to show a little more of the “in-between” scenes. This is the version that we usually watch as it gives just a little more context. Either way, and whichever one that you watch, it’s highly recommended for anyone who loves the horror genre and a good, cheesy classic movie for a Snowbeast!