Originally broadcast on television in 1977, this made-for-television movie may not rank among the best of the bunch, but Snowbeast does have the inherent charm of films such as The Car, Gargoyles, and even Killdozer. Directed by Herb Wallerstein, Snowbeast was written by Joseph Stefano, the man responsible for the Psycho script and for his contributions to the television show The Outer Limits.
Filmed in the mountains of Colorado, Snowbeast tells the story of a white-haired creature known as a yeti or a Bigfoot/Sasquatch. The movie opens with a pair of girls skiing down a mountain. When they take a breather, they spot some huge footprints in the snow. Before they can investigate, the source of the prints attacks them, managing to kill one of them while the other manages to escape.
The movie then turns to the owners of a ski resort, who are planning their annual winter carnival. Although the principal owner of the ski resort remains Mrs. Carrie Rill (Sylvia Sidney), the place is now run by her son, Tony (Robert Logan). Tony begins to worry about the carnival when local Sheriff Paraday (Clint Walker of Killdozer) begins to investigate the death of the girl.
In the meantime, two visitors arrive at the ski resort: Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) and his wife Ellen (Yvette Mimieux, who manages to look amazing even in her snowsuit). Gar is a retired gold-medal Olympian living on past glories. He has come to the ski resort to ask for a job from Tony, who it turns out was a past flame of Ellen.
The movie spends some time on melodrama, focusing on the love triangle between Gar, Ellen, and Tony, as well as Gar’s loss of confidence since having won the gold. But there’s a monster afoot, and as it begins to attack other skiers (including a member of the ski patrol in a pretty good scene), Tony and Gar must come together to track down and kill the creature. However, Tony’s mom insists that there is no danger, and the sheriff compounds the issue by insisting the source of the trouble is nothing but a bear (he even manages to kill a bear and brings it through town).
However, the snowbeast is ravenous, and using a ranch corral and a storage barn as its base of operations, it begins to make its way closer and closer to the resort, at length attacking the townsfolk while they are attending the winter carnival. The usual stampede follows as the creature tears its way through a gym, its eyes set on consuming the carnival’s queen.
Now revealed as the menace, the snowbeast retreats into the mountains, followed by the sheriff, Tony, Gar, and Ellen. The four use snowmobiles to get through the wilderness, but the snowbeast is clever. And when the sheriff is killed, the trio realizes that they may not make it out alive.
Given that Snowbeast has a solid screenwriter, director, and cast, the movie should have been really good. However, Snowbeast is not really that great, although it does have a certain charm. The cinematography is really good, and the scenes with the skiers are really good. However, the film is bogged down with a little too much melodrama and its titular creature is really not all that scary.
However, fans of Bigfoot movies should enjoy this movie, as well as fans of made-for-television horror. Of course there is little blood or onscreen violence, but the movie does secure a modest body count and manages to create tension when the monster is on screen. The director uses a music sting (probably inspired by Jaws) when the creature attacks, and he also manages to keep the camera away from the beast, ensuring that it feels scarier than it looks.
If this movie teaches viewers anything, it demonstrates that it’s better to have a ski pole than a firearm when confronting Bigfoot. Trust me on this one.
Snowbeast can be purchased as a standalone item or on anthologies, such as Classic Drive-In Series Horror, one the DVDs from the Let the Nightmare Begin Horror ultimate collectors edition (50 movies).