It’s a genre you don’t hear much about. In fact, it may not exist. But if it did, the top film everyone would be writing thinkpieces about would be 1989’s The Chill Factor. Populated by gnarly snowmobiles, a shadowy creature that might be the Devil, and a fumbling grasp on the absurd, The Chill Factor is a sweet treat for people who like bad movies.
The entire film is told in flashback, with some repeated dream sequences, but it is also happening right now. Time is hard! We’re introduced to the main characters, including Jeannie (Dawn Laurrie). An older version of Jeannie, whom we never see, provides some intrusive voiceover exposition. Meanwhile, young Jeannie is actually on-screen for the action, some of which she has already seen in a nightmare. We get the dream, then the fulfillment of the dream in real-time. Get used to seeing a guy fly through the chilly air into a tree. It happens a lot in the first act.
The other five, one of whom is a medical student, realize that the injured party, Jeannie’s boyfriend, Tom (Aaron Kjenaas) is in shock. After a quick search, they find an abandoned building. With darkness encroaching, the hapless snowmobilers decide to stay for the night. Tom could have internal injuries, so it would be best not to move him, even though they just dragged his ass away from the crash site. Maybe they mean, don’t move him again.
The place they hole up in is a camp, abandoned by the Dominicans twenty years prior. There were some murders and whispers of a Satanic cult in the area. None of this is fully explained, and that’s great. Enough clues are given that we can make up our own theories, which are probably more fun than what the writer would have presented to us.
Death comes in the form of a shadow with gnarly fingers. Is it the Devil or someone cosplaying Nosferatu? Since the spirit was summoned with a homemade talking board called the Devil’s Eye, it’s probably the Devil. This thing can make spinning blades appear in a walk-in pantry. It can make icicles fall. What it can’t do is make a lot of sense.
And yet, throughout the ridiculous goings-on, The Chill Factor generates its own low-rent brand of lapsed Catholic tension. Director Christopher Webster shows us old religious icons and fabric waving in the wind. The atmosphere works to offset other elements, like silly dialogue and awful character choices, making The Chill Factor something many independent horror films from that time were not: watchable.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray restoration of The Chill Factor is quite good. The 2K restoration from the original negative is crisp and clear, with no noticeable artifacting. The color correction seems spot on, with varying shades of white visible during the myriad of snow scenes. Blacks are nice and dark, but there’s always enough illumination to spot the background details. Crosses on the wall that were right side up are turned upside down in their next appearance.
The dialogue may be horrible, but the acting is passable. Eve Montgomery portrays the most likable character, Lissa. She has naturalistic ease, even when spouting off awful lines like, “I can’t stand the feel of nylon on my skin.”
I’ve seen far worse films than The Chill Factor and I’m betting you have, too. Keep your expectations low, and you’ll have a good time. Besides, how many other movies have the audacity to slap Satan and snowmobiles together?
Specs on the Arrow Video release of The Chill Factor are as follows:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed stereo audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with special effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley
Brand new on-camera interview with makeup artist Jeffery Lyle Segal
Brand new on-camera interview with production manager Alexandra Reed
Brand new on-camera interview with stunt coordinator Gary Paul
Original VHS trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Mike White
The Chill Factor will be released July 16 via Arrow Video. It can be ordered through Arrow, Amazon, or wherever fine Blu-rays are sold.