FrostBite brings together two basic aspects of the human psyche: our will to spread love and keep Christmas alive in our hearts the whole year round, and our will to survive and keep alive even if that means eating another person’s heart whole. Adapted from a Tobe Hooper script, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and featuring an impressive cast, FrostBite brings together the best parts of Alive (Frank Marshall) and The Night Before Christmas in a gloriously gruesome hybrid.
Those viewers hoping that Coppola has brought some of his Godfather Trilogy class to the latest festive film offering may be a little disappointed, as FrostBite sees a return to the hackneyed style he favoured as director of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and producer of Frankenstein. What the film does share with Coppola’s best work however, is fantastic performances from his leads, Jack Nicholson as Old Saint Nick, and Jack Lemmon as Rudolph, a reindeer whose pleading becomes increasingly frenzied as a deranged Santa( Nicholson reprises his performance in The Shining) eats his way through Prancer, Vixen, Blitzen et al.
The plot is fairly straightforward: as Santa and his trusty herd of reindeer fly through the winter sky on Christmas Eve, they are hit by a rogue firework and the sleigh is sent plummeting to the ground. They land in the Andes, but the impact breaks the reindeer’s legs, and the group are left stranded in the uninhabited, snow-covered mountains. At first this does not affect jolly, genial Saint Nick, and he encourages his wounded employees to sing carols with him in order to keep warm. But as the hours pass and still no help arrives from the North Pole, he and his herd steadily eat their way through all the candy canes and clementines, and soon Santa- being a large man (think Orson Welles in his later years)- begins to look at his well-fed deer with murderous eyes.
The appeal of this fairly silly film lies in the performances of Nicholson and Lemmon, the former playing a mischievous old elf who exposes mankind’s tenuous claim to civilisation: he’s one meal away from savagery, not even waiting for his deer to die before he digs in; the latter using all of the subtleties of the human voice to portray a frantic animal who is not afraid to forsake his brother and sister deer in order to survive. In short, this film has none of the matter- of- fact, ‘we have to eat to survive’, moral of Alive, but rather demonstrates humanity at its most brutal and most selfish, a message that may go down well with all the Scrooges of the world this Christmastime. Will Rudolph prevail? Will Santa stop savagely snacking on his helpers and remember that he possesses magic? It’s definitely worth a trip to the cinema to find out the answer to these questions and many more!
By Derval Tannam
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