What a great name! Despite the two words not really fitting together, SyFy went ahead anyway and the “icetastrophe” was born. The difference between this and yesterday’s “Flying Monkeys” is night and day – while they both had some of the same beats and were obviously SyFy movies, “Flying Monkeys” was dull and dragged on. “Christmas Icetastrophe” is way more fun to watch, the effects feel better and it’s overall one of the strongest SyFy efforts yet. It’s also got perhaps the highest level of “That Guy” recognition of anything we’ve seen in a long time.
A meteor is the equilibrium-spoiler of choice here. Hot scientist Alex Novak (Jennifer Spence, “Continuum”) is tracking a meteor, bound for Earth, and this journey takes her to a small town in Montana. That small town is home to Hunky McMancop himself, Victor Webster (also “Continuum”) as Charlie Ratchet, who knows about dynamite and works for town wealthy guy Ben Crooge (Mike Dopud, “Continuum” again). Charlie has a son, Tim (Richard Harmon, “Continuum”) who’s dating Ben’s daughter Marley (Tiera Skovbye, who amazingly hasn’t ever been in “Continuum”), and they’re all there in the town square to celebrate something Christmassy when the meteor strikes.
So, everything starts turning to ice, and the meteor forms massive crystals around it which kill anyone who touches it and causes them to shatter like the T-1000 in “Terminator 2”, and the town is in deep trouble. Charlie’s got the classic SyFy trope – the estranged wife – and she’s in the next town over, so there’s all sorts of shenanigans with evacuating the people to the unspecified building she works in, and them burning every bit of wood and all the books there. Charlie rescues Alex from the side of the road, and it’s the first of a number of “we need to outrun the encroaching ice” that the movie is dotted with. Pretty exciting too – they do a good job of shooting the scene where they have to get into a boat to go across a lake, as it’s freezing behind them. Don’t look too close or you’ll see the pleasant spring afternoon off in the distance, but for SyFy this stuff is strong.
When a rescue helicopter finds a mysterious patch of mountain which is untouched by the ice-storm which is sweeping the area, it’s on for an attempt to save the day and use good old fashioned heroism combined with puzzling leaps of logic only used by scientists in movies. Alex and Charlie make a great team, with an easy camaraderie and deferment to each others’ area of expertise, and it’s also refreshing to see no unnecessary sexual tension subplot – a bit surprising as Victor Webster and Jennifer Spence are both gorgeous (we don’t call him Hunky McMancop for nothing). Then Tim has to go and rescue Marley…it’s standard stuff, but it works.
It’s tough to say why this one works completely whereas so many others fail. It’s not the director, Jonathan Winfrey, who was an undistinguished TV guy for many years. It’s probably not writer David Sanderson, a SyFy employee who’s worked on many of their movies, both good and bad. I think it might be a cast full of people who’d worked with each other before, and it might just be that “The Day After Tomorrow” was ripe for a cheap ripoff with a bunch of TV actors in it. Who knows?
Perhaps it’s the well-timed gags. When a redneck stuck on a bridge tells a teen couple to “chill”, then half a second later gets vaporised by a huge block of ice landing on him, that’s a lot of fun (I hope this isn’t just me being some demented monster, getting enjoyment from scenes like that). Webster and Spence are more dryly amusing than laugh-out-loud, but it’s all good.
It’s not perfect, though. The estranged wife subplot was dull as hell, as they didn’t bother giving her much of a personality or anything to do; and there was a whole rich kid hates the poor kid thing that went nowhere. Oh, and the science was absolutely terrible, being about two parts of a meteor, one of which creates heat, the other cold (heck of a coincidence, I’d have thought), and attributing simple fire an almost supernatural ability to repel ice.
I’d put it solidly in the top quarter of SyFy’s output, and if you get the chance, it comes highly recommended.
Rating: thumbs up