The Chill Factor
AKA: Demon Possessed
Three couples are on a snowmobile vacation in Wisconsin. Two of them want to have a competition to see which one is the fastest, but don’t know where to race amongst all the rocky terrain. So a helpful diner owner directs them to an isolated, frozen over lake where they’ll be out of the way and have all the space they’ll need. They find the lake, but in the middle of the race, one of the members loses control of the snowmobile and crashes into a tree, severely injuring himself. Unable to move their friend and miles away from civilization, the group is in desperate need of shelter due to the coming darkness and impending storm. Luckily, they soon stumble upon an old, abandoned lodge near the lake that looks to have once been a Catholic-run summer camp. The friends quickly make it inside and send for help, but when they decide to toy around with a strange Ouija-like board they find in a closet, they quickly discover that their problems are far greater than just worrying about whether or not their seriously injured friend will make it through the night.
Uh, yeah, how about shoving that monstrosity back into the closet where it belongs, m’kay? Thanks.
Originally filmed in the late 80s, but not released on home video until 1993, The Chill Factor is a little oddity of a film. Though the basic plot is clearly inspired by The Evil Dead, what with the accidental demons summoning going on, the isolated location, chilly landscape and religious angle add enough nuance to the plot to at least make the premise intriguing. But unfortunately for the film, though their location may have been great and many of their ideas may have been good, just about everything about their execution leaves much to be desired.
Much like this stunt.
For starters, the film has all the hallmarks of a very low-budget horror film. The acting throughout runs from pretty bland to abysmal. Thankfully the main cast is at least mostly tolerable, but some of the extras were so bad that the movie had to re-dub their dialogue. Though even after going through the trouble of doing that, nothing the filmmakers did could ever cover up their horrible failure of physicality or their bland and clearly disinterested facial expressions.
As for the effects, the movie treated them the same way it treated the nudity: It’s there…. But just barely. Scenes where something violent happens are not only swift, but also tend to cut away before you can actually see anything, often just cutting away to the end result, which more often than not ends up being a character lying around with some blood smathered on them. The filmmakers seemed to have only had access to two buckets of blood and they blew one whole one on a single death scene, so they had to sparse out the rest to cover the whole film, and that includes what they used for the one character who got hurt early on. And if you’re hoping the film makes up for the lack of blood and gore with some skin, then you’re going to end up disappointed on that front as well. The nudity in the film is treated much like a fan dance. You’re given just enough of a glimpse to know what’s there and what’s going on, but that’s it. The most titillating thing to see here is the barest hint of side boob. With all the cut-aways and obscurity, I dare say the movie has some of the most tastefully done nudity scenes I’ve ever seen in a slasher.
Nice arm placement.
But by far the film’s worst offender is it’s plot and it’s pacing. The movie has about as much content to fill a 30-minute short. But unfortunately for the viewer it insists on lasting over 80-minutes. So it has to fill that time with obnoxiously long snowmobile sequences, and utilizes one of the horror genre’s perceived favorite method of padding: forcing characters to aimlessly meander around in the dark. And it does not just do this with one character, or hell, even just two characters. No, it forces four of the characters to fall prey to this plodding plot device. Because once one wanders off, the film uses that as an excuse to have the others wander off to look for them. And then inevitably someone else has to wander off and look for THAT person, thus turning a good quarter of the movie into a vicious wandering cycle. But then again, none of the characters seem all that bright, so perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that they all decided to go out Lemmings style. I feel bad for them, really. As the script really doesn’t do the characters any favors. Even simple things like basic motivation are essentially non-existent, to the point where it almost feels like the script was written on the fly. The film even tries to add in a narrator throughout in an attempt to tie up some loose ends and explain things, but even that misses the mark. Towards the end of the movie, the heroine’s common sense basically flies straight out the window, and the film tries to explain her bizarre 180-personality flip with a throwaway along the lines of, “Oh, well, I knew using the Ouija board was a bad idea, but I did it because I’ve always been a curious person.” Uh, no. Sorry, movie. You did it due to terrible writing and just wanting her to act that way. It would have made more sense if you had just had her admit she gave in because of peer pressure. At least that would have been honest.
The film’s one saving grace is that it actually has some nice visuals and an excellent sense of atmosphere. The barren snowy landscape is as beautiful as it is ominous, and the juxtaposition of all the religious artifacts ends up being quite unnerving at times. It’s just a shame the rest of the movie couldn’t live up to those standards.
The Chill Factor is the type of movie you finish watching and you end up wanting to like it more than you do. It has a solid foundation and arresting visuals (and they get bonus points from me for filming out in the actual wilderness with real snow), but the rest of the movie just can’t follow through. The pacing is rough, the movie’s own logic often doesn’t make much sense, and the characters aren’t even that likable, so you end up with no one to root for. So in the end it’s a mediocre possession slasher with some decent death scenes, and an absurd racing snowmobile showdown at the end, that manages to simultaneously feel comical yet makes perfect sense. But that’s about it. It’s probably worth a watch for horror fans who are fans of slashers and possession angles, but for casual fans I doubt they’ll find it all that impressive.
The Chill Factor is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.
It is also available on Bluray from Arrow Films.