"Some things are better left unfound," reads the tag-line to Abominable, Anchor Bay's newest macabre threat . . . but that certainly isn't true in this case! Horror fans are, for the most part, an intelligent, complex bunch of folks, and trying to please them an increasingly difficult quest. Thankfully, while the diversity of fans' interests range from mainstream to terribly obscure, often refusing (and rightly so) any strict or easily labelled niche, an interesting, well told story, clear vision, and sound technical skill are usually sound recipes for success. Nowhere is this more apparent than when considering the simple yet profound joys of the monster movie. Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best, and nothing is more basic than the masochistic desire to scare yourself whole enjoying it -- something that 'creature features' have been doing for years. Whether they are man-made, sprout fangs, or lurk in Northern forests, any self-respecting horror film fan enjoys a good monster (or, as the case may be, a wonderfully BAD one!). Evoking nostalgia for the gory-glory days of old, when monsters owned the night rather than realistic killers, while offering impressive chills in a socially pertinent context, Abominable, the newest feature grabbed up for the Sci-Fi Channel, isn't only a cut above that station's usual lackluster fare but a taunt, well made monster movie in general, speaking well for the talent (and possible future) of its director.
An admirable homage to, and re-interpretation of, the monster flicks of old, Abdominal is a story clearly indebted to both the sci-fi 'nature-amock' threats of the fifties and the big-creature programmers of the 70s and 80s. Bringing to mind such sleepers as Night of the Demon, Boggy Swamp, and Grizzly, a quick look at the admirably constructed plot also suggests a debt to several suspense films, most notably Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. While the script by Ryan Schifrin and James Morrison imbue such burrowed elements as legendary Bigfoot sightings and authentic folklore with the aforementioned sources, lending new twists and relevance to old genre stand-bys, don't for a moment make the mistake of thinking that this is just another Sci-Fi re-tread of the moldering 'nature attacks' mode. On the contrary, director Schifrin's approach is anything but archaic, and he makes the material uniquely his own. Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy), a wheelchair-bound paraplegic mountain climber, returns to the scene of his wife's death on a weekend when a ravenous Yeti attacks the wooded community. Bigfoot, a creature which goes by many names and has been spotted numerous times by credible witnesses, is on the prowl in frightful, night-shrouded style, and the five young sex-pots celebrating for the weekend in the forest are going to get much more than a stripper. As Rogers attempts to track the beasts movements and convince his neighbors of their danger, events are further complicated by the appearance of two hunters (Henricksen and Combs), and a simple headed police chief. Bigfoot gets to lurk around the forest, brutalize empty-headed victims, and wreak some admirable havoc. What do you get? A slick, professional monster movie that treats both its principle source material and audience with respect without losing sight of the fact that it's all in good (and occasionally bloody) fun.
An enjoyable stew of several classic B-movie themes, Abominable makes the old new again, crafting a story that supports its solid scares and brooding atmosphere with honest-to-god characters. The very real, very believable conflicts, histories, and wonderfully captured personalities of the characters in this modern folk tale lend belief and further complexity to the supernatural/monstrous element. Not only Bigfoot is a threat and source of both confusion and fear, but so are the human hearts of people we know (or could be ourselves). Director Schifrin constructs a story wherein the bizarre is intimately interwoven with disturbing, carefully filmed moments of the everyday. As a result, he invites the audience to celebrate the cosmic awe and mystery of the Yeti (and all the dangers/thrills it represents) while taking a closer look at surprisingly mature philosophical stances. Making his debut, writer/director Ryan Schifrin is clearly a talent to watch, managing some impressive moments of tension and characterization with a small budget and ridiculously small shooting time. His style is both crisp and engaging, and his use of the camera to tell the story (rather than standing still, as many directors choose to do) an incentive to a story so dependent on points-of-view. Just as important to the success of the movie is his penchant for charging scenes of seemingly everyday reality with true sinister atmosphere; an undeniable sense of hiding malignance permeates the entire project, and while he wisely keeps the Yeti in the shadows for the first quarter of the film, the pay off, when the beast appears, is well worth the weight -- easily the most effective Bigfoot to ever terrorize the screen. While some may lament the director's dependence on elements of Rear Window, such aspects are put to good use, and, at the very least, suggest a director who has something to say, merging elements of voyeurism and Preston's inability to act on what he sees with truly disturbing shots. In Abominable, peering out windows is really frightening! Suggesting the emotional poignancy and cultural resonance of a folk tale, Schifrin's scare-fest, in the end, is nothing less or more than an enticing monster movie made to scare, arouse, and amuse. It achieves all these goals admirably, and with style to boot. Seen with footage not available on the Sci-Fi Channel, Abominable makes the night scary again!
Anchor Bay rarely ever gives their releases less than 100% (despite the grumblings of vindictive smaller DVD companies). And while the transfer here often looks a bit too dark, this is another example of technical proficiency. Despite the limited budgetary means afforded to Abominable, the DVDs colors are vibrant, and no grain or speckling interferes with the picture. Audio is up to par as well, featuring both Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and 2.0. While the 5.1 soundtrack at times appears to overshadow the dialogue, for the most part the track is clean and the effects evenly distributed.
Extras for this monster menace are more substantial than usual for regular, non special edition releases, including, most significantly, the Audio Commentary with writer/director Ryan Schifrin and actors Jeffrey Combs and Matt McCoy. Schifrin is the major highlight here, speaking about anything and everything, showing a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm about the film business while not shying away from the hardships. Offering the back story on various scenes, he also covers the inspiration for the film, the creation process, planning, shooting, and just about anything else you might want to know. Combs is less interesting, only appearing for his scenes, but as intelligent and well spoken as ever. "Back to Genre: Making Abominable" is an instructive, rather enjoyable 'behind-the-scenes' featurette, featuring interviews with cast that, while hardly as interesting as the commentary, show the actor's enthusiasm and wit (the major shame being that Henricksen isn't covered). Deleted and expanded scenes are next, none of which add anything of great value to the narrative, followed by a semi humorous Blooper Reel. Of more meat is Schifrin's short film Shadows, which he created as a student. Surprisingly mature and elegant in both appeal and construction, this subtle, suggestive piece an engaging contrast when compared to the feature film, while both show a talent in the process of formation. The Bay's Theatrical Trailers, obligatory Poster/Still Gallery, and a Storyboard section conclude the fearsome festivities for what may be the most honest, unassuming monster movies to hit disc in years.
Review by William P. Simmons
|Released by Anchor Bay|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|