AVAILABLE ON REGION 1 DVD AND DIGITAL: 14TH APRIL
RUNNING TIME:72 mins, from UNCORK’D ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
A team of scientists go in search of the Yeti plant, a plant which is supposed to be a cure for all diseases. However, they fail to return, so another expedition sets off to find them and the plant. Its leader Dr. Smith has a personal stake in this, because she’s suffering from brain cancer. However, a storm is heading their way, and if the team don’t make their extraction point before it hits, they could all die there. Plus there’s the small matter of the creature who doesn’t take kindly to intruders on its territory trying to take things that don’t belong to them….
Well I’m going to have to say that I felt like cheering. Why? Well, let me explain. I’m often lamenting the fact that practical effects have largely been replaced by ones of the digital kind, thought because of this I no doubt tend to come across as an old fuddy duddy. There’s no doubt that CGI has made it possible for us to now see virtually anything on screen, and that many recent films would not have been possible without it, even though the fact that so much is now done with CGI means that quality sometimes lessens as visual effects houses are stretched thin [just compare some of the effects in the recent Marvel’s with ones in the early ones]. However, I don’t think that it helps lower budget productions much at all, especially with creature features. Cheap, rushed CGI is simply hideous to look at and tends to seriously hamper my enjoyment of a film, while poor practical effects I might laugh at but won’t stop me enjoying the movie in question. So when, about ten minutes into it, I realised that the monster in this film was A FRIGGIN PERSON IN A SUIT, not some blurry thing that doesn’t even look like it’s actually there and move like it obeys any laws of gravity, my heart soared and I was happy that the creators of Abominable decided to go the way that they did with its creature. I knew that, even if the rest of the film was really poor, even if every other aspect was terrible, it would still have this major saving grace that would definitely be enough to get me through it.
While there aren’t a huge number of them, a film based on the creature that may or may not live in the Himalayas does come along every now and again. Abominable even shares its boringly generic title with an animated film from last year also about the Yeti, which by the way wasn’t a patch on Missing Link from the same year. There was also a 2006 movie called Abominable which seems to be regarded quite well. I haven’t had the pleasure, meaning that for me no Yeti film has matched Hammer’s 1957 effort The Abominable Showman. Maybe one day I’ll start a series for this website and watch and review them all? – but then the question would arise do I include movies concerning the Yeti’s American relative Bigfoot? Indeed the Sasquatch came to mind several times during my viewing of Abominable, the second feature from Jamaal Burden the director of the very poorly received Elves [though I wasn’t going to hold that against him because I haven’t seen that either], because it’s set in the Himalayas but apart from one establishing shot it all takes place in a wood during the winter [actually in Poland], with no attempt being made to convince us that we were in the mountainous home of the Yeti. This made me wonder why on earth they didn’t just make the story about Bigfoot, it would have required very little adjusting of the script to do so. But then one comes away with several other questions too, but saying that I don’t want to you to think that Abominable is a disaster. It is very cheap, and can’t help but look very cheap quite often, but I tend to be kinder than my colleagues here on HCF regarding micro budgeted movies, so for me not being able to hide such cheapness shouldn’t automatically be taken as a sign that a film is not worthy of much merit. Here, it’s the script that really lets things down. A bit of work on it and we might have had a reasonably decent, straight-down-the-line cheapie.
So we begin with a man fleeing from something while clutching onto a flower in a container. Roars, even an electronic approximation of the famous Psycho slashing strings are heard while the guy keeps looking up in the air for some reason, meaning that it’s little surprise when something grabs him and we hear his cries and the sound of him being eaten. It’s a typical ‘grab the attention’ opening while holding off showing the creature yet. Now we join our team going into what looks like a school classroom and certainly not a building you’d find in the place this film is actually supposed to be set in, to play back the last transmission of one of three scientists they’re trying to find. “Something is amongst us in the mountains”, “I’m the only one left”. But that’s not enough, they locate a diary as well, though only read a tiny part of it before setting off again, but in that space of time one of their number is gorily killed outside by something – which we now see. The suit is conceptually pretty decent and the mask, while it could be more expressive, is still effective, suggesting a creature of great age. However, it can’t help but be noticed that the guy inside the suit Timothy Schultz is clearly too small, with some considerable bagginess on view. This may not have been a problem if they’d kept the Yeti in the shadows, but seriously hampers any feeling of terror when we see it advancing on its victims or just standing in the background. Maybe the person intended to wear the suit fell ill or something? Also a problem is that we barely get a sense of who these people are except for two of their number. I don’t require laborious introductions, but just think of how something like the similarly snow-set The Thing gave us a sense of what its characters were like with just a few lines of dialogue, just a few reactions to things. It’s especially a shame here as the performers tend to fare pretty well notwithstanding, especially Amy Gordon as Dr. Smith who manages to deliver even her lamest lines with some conviction.
Things are rather disjointed at first, with some random editing and even some rapid changes from day to night which I can’t believe made it in. There’s cheapness which in itself is not a crime, and then there’s carelessness. But soon it does grip a little, as, with a few others out of the way, we have four members of the group doing their searching in pairs while one of them stays in the building doing techie stuff which isn’t very clear. Of course no signal is able to come in or go out of the area, and don’t forget they’re also looking for this flower. Maybe it grows near the one they were searching for in Werewolf Of London? At least in that film they tried to give the flower a believable name rather than ‘The Yeti Flower’ which really is lame. After covering some ground two of them decide to set up a beacon, and it’s funny that none of the equipment whatsoever is shown, it’s always just beneath the frame. Smith is of course the leader and she soon reveals a very personal reason for wanting this flower, though of course it will be beneficial for the rest of mankind anyway. Her companion Robert also seems to reveal a bit about himself. But generally there’s little time for reflection in the tightly paced 72 minutes which sometimes made me really wish that they’d filmed that Friday The 13th script that was set in the snow. There’s a revelation three quarters of the way through which some may see coming. I didn’t, but was disappointed at how cliched it was and how therefore it could not help but lead to some very cliched dialogue of the kind we’ve heard so many times before [I’m obviously being a bit vague but you’ll know what I mean] which even Robert Berlin’s decent acting can’t save.
While geography doesn’t always seem quite right, Burden and his cinematographer Khu [also credited as co-producer, wardrobe and probably much else too] do manage to get a bit of menace out of this obviously small area of the woods. And there are some fine practical gore effects which should certainly please fans of this kind of thing. Except for the occasion where he bashes a head against a tree repeatedly, this Abominable Snowman prefers to rip things off; limbs, tongues, faces. It’s probable that much of the money went on these scenes, and one can argue that this is how it should be as these are intended as the highlights. But surely they could have modified some of the dialogue, such as this portion of a very puzzling scene: “We are caught in a natural anomaly, a prehistoric leap, somehow captured in real time”. “You’re saying that we’re in the past? The future”? “In essence, yes”. Why is this exchange even in the film? I suppose that it was thought that the existence of the Yeti would require it, as strange as that sounds, but it throws up a new dimension to the story which is then forgotten about. It’s either that or they wanted to extend the paltry running time just a bit, but even some more snow treading footage would have been preferable. And then there’s the whole issue of guns, which either have very poor muzzle flash or none at all, and which sometimes cause sounds which don’t quite synch with when they’re being fired. Again, I appreciate that the money may not have been around to do this element justice, but in that case they should have just toned down the use of firearms that was in the script.
In the end Abominable is a mixture of .good’ and ‘bad’, with unfortunately more ‘bad’, and I really didn’t want to say this seeing how much I appreciated seeing that suit! Some elements certainly prevent it from totally sinking into crapness; I’ve yet to mention Yaya Turner’s music score, where the composer is clearly saddled with a synthesiser of limited range yet is obviously trying to get the very best out and enhance as much he can the action on screen. You will most definitely have seen far worse pictures of its ilk. But you will also be left with questions, questions – including both the ending and then the end credits. The ending is very old hat yet still puzzling – and not really in a good way even though I almost want to admire its cheek. I can only think of one particular interpretation from what we get, but it’s an interpretation which is in no way hinted at even vaguely before, and I’d love to know what on earth possessed screenwriter Joseph Ellis to conclude matters in this fashion. Thinking about this as I type, I do wonder if the ending neatly negates one of my major issues with the film [again, I can’t be precise or I’d give too much away]? – but no doubt I’m just clutching at straws which aren’t there. And as for the end credits, they tell us that a sequel is coming entitled [this is not a typo] The Mummy Revenge. I don’t understand, I just don’t understand.