Sheriff: I understand she was a guest at your ski lodge. I was hoping you could help me identify her.
Tony: I must have seen her somewhere. Maybe I will recognise her when I see her face?
Sheriff: She does not have one!
It was fantastic dialogue like this that introduced me to the wonderful world of horror. The year was 1983, I was 10 years old sitting on the sofa between my parents, and the film in question with the scintillating dialogue was Snowbeast.
Made in 1977, a huge, white Bigfoot type creature begins to terrorise a Colorado Ski Resort during a winter carnival, by eating several skiers. The authorities put it down to bear attacks, but local cop Tony Rill sees a white shadowy beastly shape disappearing into the woods. Obviously nobody believes him, but it soon becomes clear when the creature finally attacks the town. Looking back, the similarities to Spielberg’s 1975 “monster” movie Jaws are obvious.
I can’t remember how I came to be watching this film at the age of ten, I can only assume that my parents didn’t think that a made for TV movie could be that bad.
They were so wrong…
My 10 year old imagination ran riot. In the days of pre CGI-laden movies, home surround sound systems, and low TV production budgets, Snowbeast relied on implied horror, the thought or threat of the beast, without actually showing much of the beast itself. The odd claw, bloody appendage or horrified screaming reaction from itís victims being much more powerful to an innocent child. The actual Snowbeast only appeared fleetingly for a few minutes towards the end, but by then in my mind I was already seeing a terrifying Wampa-like creature – huge, white, big teeth and big claws. If it was monstrous enough to capture Luke Skywalker, what chance did this ski resort have? I mean, there werenít even any lightsabers!
Jaws had successfully applied the same implied technique previously, with the threat of the shark being more terrifying than the shark itself. However, this was down to technical reasons rather than initial design. The shark, or Bruce, was constantly malfunctioning during production, pushing Spielberg to think outside of his original premise and resulted in probably one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
The Snowbeast went on to become a major character in my nightmares. Whether its face appearing at my bedroom window late at night, or a bloody claw reaching out to me from under the duvet, nothing had had such a horrific effect on me before. The heavy snowfall that Winter didn’t help matters either!
Youíll be glad to hear that the nightmares didnít last long. The terror soon turned to triumph as I was joined in my dreams by pirates, Buck Rogers (without Twikki) and Luke Skywalker, and whilst the Snowbeast always put up a valiant fight, he was always vanquished. In fact, Snowbeast was the last of my major monster nightmares. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the werewolf and many others all appeared regularly in my dreams, but against my army, none of them survived as long as the big, white, hairy, scary Snowbeast.
On reflection, Snowbeast is not a great horror movie by any means. It would probably appear in the bargain bin if still in print. But you know what? If I saw it I’d buy it in a flash, if only to try to relive that innocent terror once again!