Snow Escape, Snow Surrender
As anyone in movie marketing can tell you, nothing beats a great title, and sometimes it only takes one word to sell you on something you just know it gonna hurt your brain but you have to see anyhow, like Sharktopus, Carnosaur, Manster or Sharknado (I kid you not, it exists! ). (RoboCop is the awesome exception to the rule, of course.) OK, technically those titles are actually two words smashed together to make one glorious B-movie mutant of a moniker. Regardless, when it comes to the double-your-pleasure-double-your-fun Frankentitle (see what I just did there…), I’m a sucker. So when a DVD with Snowmageddon emblazoned on the front landed on my desk, any and all forms of resistance were futile.
This low budget Canadian production, made for the Syfy channel in the U.S., has one of the weirdest premises ever. Christmas approaches in an idyllic small town mountain town of Normal, Alaska. Main street is decorated, trees are up and presents are arriving, including one that shows up on the doorstep of the sheriff. His young son, who has an affinity for a fantasy roleplaying game, opens the package to discover a mechanically complex snow globe that contains a detailed replica of the town and surrounding mountains inside of it. He sets the device in-motion and soon the town is under siege by… earthquakes that crack open main street, exploding ice comets that rain down deadly icicles, giant spikes that shoot out of the ground, and a volcano that erupts in the mountains. Hmmm… not a lot of snow in that mageddon, is there?
As the sheriff and his wife, a helicopter pilot who drops a couple of snowboarders off on one of the mountains when the chaos begins, try to save the town, while their son tries to convince them that the snow globe is at fault, which he eventually does with the help of a local merchant, played by Michael Hogan (best known as the salty Colonel Saul Tigh on Battlestar Galactica). And just to make the proceedings extra Canuck, Lorne Cardinal of Corner Gas fame co-stars as one of the locals. Trapped and rightfully confused, they townies eventually figure out that their only chance is to throw the globe into the new volcano above the town, which will most likely hurt tourism. The sheriff hops in his clunky, sometimes computer animated, Snow Cat and attempts to make like a Hobbit on Mount Doom.
Because this is a Syfy movie, the effects are expectedly terrible, the carnage PG-rated and the performances uneven. That said, if you don’t mind the lack of a snowmaggedon, and watch Snowmageddon as an incredibly twisted Christmas flick, you’ve got the best Hallmark movie ever made. (And not the Roland Emmerich-type apocalypse epic promised by that severly overreaching DVD cover.) The Twilight Zone-style plot is weird enough to keep you in the game, Hogan is fun to watch and the whole thing is under 80 minutes and keeps a brisk pace. It’s kind of movie you’d want to bring over to grandma’s house during the holidays, just to break her mind.
Director Sheldon Wilson does a respectable job with what he’s got, and deserves to be working on bigger projects. I’ve seen his second feature, the horror-mystery Shallow Ground, which is well worth seeking out.
It may not live up to the promise of its title, but Snowmaggedon is perfect for keeping it weird during the holidays. At least until someone makes Blizzarmageddon.