This product was provided by Arrow for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
I went into the new Arrow Video Blu-ray release of The Chill Factor completely blind, knowing nothing about the film in the slightest, and at the onset it looked like it was going to be a campy, 1980s horror flick. As the narrator spoke, though, she mentioned they were quickly approaching the year 2000, at which point I had to look up the release date and was shocked to discover that this movie, having the look like it’s straight out of the mid-’80s, came out in 1993.
On the Film Pulse podcast, “Saved by the ’90s,” we discuss a number of early titles from the decade and how they still carry that wonderful ’80s veneer, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more ’80s looking movie released just three years into the penultimate decade of the 20th Century.
The Chill Factor is the only film directed by Christopher Webster, who was a producer on the first two Hellraiser films, along with Heathers and a dozen or so others, and involves a group of snowmobile-loving friends who accidentally conjure a demon after an accident leaves one of them injured in the middle of nowhere. Propelled by some baffling narration from Barbara Claman, who worked not as an actor but a casting director from the early 1970s until the early aughts, the film begins with an ominous premonition of the accident, envisioned by Jeanie (Dawn Laurrie), who we discover is the younger version of the person doing the narration. Why she had this vision and why she wasn’t more disturbed by it is anyone’s guess.
After a fun-filled day on the sleds, the gang heads to a local bar for some drinks, and two of them decide to challenge each other to a race on a frozen lake that is 30 miles out of town. In a film that’s loaded with odd choices, this sequence is by far the most egregious, with random racist locals, an all-too-friendly bar owner and a bizarre scene in which Jeanie’s boyfriend, Tom, is sensually rubbing his sister’s butt, an allusion to an incestuous relationship that never culminates to anything whatsoever later in the story.
The race ends with one of the dudes bailing from his snowmobile and the other, Tom, crashing into a tree and suffering a head injury. Why they didn’t simply stop when they crossed the finish line is another in a long series of odd questions this movie raises. They don’t want to move Tom for fear of injuring him further, but instead of sending someone to get help, they find an old abandoned church and just end up moving him anyway.
One of the friends is a medical student and informs the group that Tom has a concussion and the best thing for him is rest. Not only is the guy is covered in blood, but even I know that you’re supposed to keep someone with a head injury awake. And if you’re going to move him anyway, why not go back to town? Why choose a creepy abandoned church? After sending someone out to get help, the group searches their surroundings and finds a creepy device that they play with, causing Tom to be possessed by a demon and killing his pals one by one.
The Chill Factor is extremely campy and not very good, but it’s an entertaining watch, evoking plenty of laughter through its copious amount of unintentional comedy. The film was previously only available in its original VHS form, but Arrow has taken it upon itself to release this newly restored version on Blu-ray, once again demonstrating film preservation should not be limited to only those titles considered classics.
The disc contains new interviews with various crew members and a commentary track with special-effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley. They included the original VHS workprint of the film along with your standard trailers and stills. The bonus supplements are a somewhat paltry offering in comparison to what Arrow typically delivers, and it would have been nice to see some interviews with cast members or the director, but it’s obviously not the fault of Arrow if they didn’t want to participate.
It may have a dreadful script, a soft-core porn soundtrack, rough performances and an aesthetic that looks a decade too old, but all these elements add to the cheesy fun. Don’t go in expecting anything more than a silly VHS-era horror romp, and you’ll have a good time with The Chill Factor.