We’re coming to the end of this mini-season of SyFy Channel reviews, partly because they’re starting to blend into one and partly because I’ve got plans to take on something completely different, like every single movie listed on Wikipedia’s “1980s horror comedy” page (at least some of which will be good). Of the main trends in SyFy, I’ve got to say the environmental disaster one is probably my favourite; and while I prefer “meteor is heading for us” to “climate change is literally killing the planet”, as climate change is real and plenty horrifying enough, I’ll take this one.
Increasing that feeling of familiarity for SyFy fans, it’s set in a small town nestled in some mountains – possibly the same town featured in “The 12 Disasters Of Christmas” and several others, but certainly very similar. Brendan Fehr, from “Roswell” and “The Night Shift”, is the Dad of the family, working as a geologist for the US Army in Alaska. Wait, a Dad? I associate Fehr so strongly with the roles of his youth that it’s sort of a surprise to learn he’s only a year younger than me – still, he was 33 when this was made, his wife was 31, and them having a 16 year old daughter is pushing the bounds of believability a bit.
Anyway, he’s making breakfast and reading about a scientist who’s worried about rivers of methane coming from climate change, rivers that could wipe out life on Earth – he’s mocked for this belief several times before people start dying (of course). A Russian ice shelf has collapsed, a couple of scientists die in the “cold” open (sorry, that could be the worst pun I’ve ever come up with), but Fehr and his family – including a very young Jodelle Ferland, soon to be on SyFy’s amazing “Dark Matter” – have got Christmas shopping to do. Moderately implausibly, they didn’t bother even ordering a tree, and the shop has sold out, so they decide to go up on to the local mountain to cut one down themselves. Really? That’s the best way you could figure out to get the main family separated from the rest of the cast?
We’re treated to some really basic basics in “Ice Quake”, including a Chekhov’s Gun so glaring that they might as well have hung a sign over one thing saying “THIS WILL COME IN HANDY LATER” (no spoilers, though). There’s the other biggest name, Victor Garber (from “Alias”, “Glee” and a million other things) as an Army colonel who does all his scenes from one room, only interacting with the Fehr section of the cast via telephone. My wife mocks me for saying “they could only afford him for a day, obviously” when stuff like this happens, but if you’ve hired Garber for your movie for multiple days, why not do something better with him?
The plot is about as generic as possible, which is possibly down to director Paul Ziller and writer David Ray, two of SyFy’s most regular guys. The family go up the mountain to find a tree, and no-one thinks of mentioning “perhaps we ought to get a tree from the bottom of the mountain rather than the top” and they get stranded, then separated. Great crevasses with insta-freezing methane gas open up, rescue helicopters are dispatched, the crazy scientist tries to get people to listen to him, and a plan to save the day is hatched. But so much of the movie is just people walking through the snow, same as a million other cheap movies.
Because there’s basically nothing to talk about re: the plot (if you’ve seen one SyFy disaster movie, you’ve seen them all) or the technical stuff (no big problems with the shooting, editing or any of that malarkey) we might as well discuss the lazy science and logic. First up is methane, as there are apparently rivers of the stuff coming to kill us all. Well, the boiling point of methane is -161.5 C (-257.8 F), and the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -89.2 C (-128.6 F), meaning it’s physically impossible for methane to exist in liquid form in the mountains of Alaska or anywhere else. Then you get people managing to successfully outrun an avalanche, which I bet is pretty difficult, and also just refusing to walk down the mountain to the presumably nearby town, when they see a catastrophic storm coming. The scientist runs a roadblock at one point, and not only do the Army guys not chase him, they fire bullets which all bounce harmlessly off his normal car. All the long-distance shots show lovely green areas and fully-leaved deciduous trees…in Alaska, on Christmas eve.
It’s a real struggle to have any opinion at all about “Ice Quake”. It’s as generic as they come, so should you be trying to regulate your brainwaves, and not give them anything too challenging or good / bad enough to need to concentrate on, then this will be the film for you. Otherwise, find some drying paint to check out.
Rating: thumbs down