Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Directed by Ryan Schifrin
Written by Ryan Schifrin
Starring Matt McCoy, Haley Joel, Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs
Produced by Donna Cockrell, Theresa Hartman, Paul Spadone
When I first put “Abominable” into my DVD player, I didn’t know what to make of it. I’ll give you the full rundown later—first we’ve got to get the plot covered.
So what we have here plotwise is the homecoming of a newly-paraplegic former mountain climber named Preston Rogers, who apparently not only has the worst luck in the world but also the worst timing. He’s managed to come home at the exact same time a string of unexplained and bloody happenings have been going on. Apparently, lots of animals, and possibly some people too, have been recently killed by a mystery beast…that leaves behind only mangled corpses…and big footprints.
Yes, that’s right…it’s a movie about Bigfoot.
And this is where my qualms began.
It’s a movie about the abominable snowman, for crying out loud. It’s a YETI flick. And let’s be honest, the whole monster movie genre’s sort of hard up these days, what with chupacabras cropping up left, right and center and various insects in hot pursuit. Most of them turn out as nothing but cinematic miseries, near-total wastes of time and DVD plastic.
And then, bloody hell, “Nightline”—yes, “Nightline”! weighed in and called director Schifrin “the future of horror.” Such hyperbole from a source that ranks so spectacularly low on credibility in the indie horror genre smacks of true desperation.
Don’t even get me started when Harry Knowles said it was good. That’s a monster red flag for me.
But…but then I got to looking at the components of the movie. Lance Henriksen was in it. Longtime readers know that I personally consider Lance Henriksen to be a guaranteed good performance no matter what movie he’s in. And Jeffrey Combs too? Longtime readers will also know I back Combs to the ever-lovin’ hilt.
And it certainly does not hurt to feature Tiffany Shepis. The Divine Miss Shepis’s performances have always been choice in my experience—her performances pretty much made “Scare Crow” and “The Hazing” for me.
Then Fango weighed in, and gave it some true props, and suddenly, I began to wonder.
So, okay. You’ve sat through a couple hundred words of me analyzing components like this was a soup recipe, and you’re wondering by now, what the hell do I actually THINK about this little affair and when am I finally going to tell you?
What Schifrin and company have done here is basically, somehow, managed to make a monster movie out of “Rear Window.” We’ve got the paraplegic guy watching out his back window, keeping an eye out for monsters in the woods while the monster in question stalks and kills the woods’ occupants. Even better, it is a plain example of survival horror, at least in its last half hour, and for that reason alone “Abominable” beats most of the rest.
And I’m frankly awed. It’s almost an insult to Schifrin’s work to say that this is, clearly, one of the best monster movies I’ve ever seen. Mostly because the field is so incredibly flat that even the very best looks like a measly molehill, but Schifrin’s sitting on top of the Everest of monster movies.
And it’s true—Henriksen, Combs and Shepis give performances that clearly let me justify my earlier expressed feelings on these three. No one else is any kind of slouch in the acting department either. The writing is taut and ultimately believable. The effects aren’t very pronounced but what is used is used well and believably, and isn’t that the ultimate best use of special effects anyway?
Even better, they’ve managed to insert occasional bursts of comedy into their narrative, and this improves the nature of things even further.
The only way this could have possibly been better is if they’d somehow managed to include Brad Dourif, but hey, I’m splitting hairs here. This is still unbelievable stuff here no matter how you dissect it.
The ending, in fact, the entire last half hour, is packed to the gills with unbelievably tense action, and is just amazing to watch. It’s an adrenaline surge to beat Red Bull as the events unfold before you. And even better, there will be a surprise at the end. A very, very big surprise.
The special features include a making-of featurette, commentary track, deleted scenes, extended scenes, a blooper reel, outtakes, a copy of Schifrin’s USC student film “Shadows,” poster and still gallery, storyboard gallery, a screenplay for the DVD-ROM drive crew, and two different trailers for “Abominable.”
All in all, Schifrin is a genius, and “Abominable” is the proof. This is absolutely worth every second of your rental.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org