Release Date(s)1993 (July 16, 2019)
Studio(s)Filmworld International Productions/Snowman Productions Ltd. (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
As has been noted many times over, the 1980s saw a bombardment of horror films from different sources as it was one of the most profitable genres to take advantage of. Because so much product was being created, many titles fell through the cracks, either getting the straight-to-video treatment or simply shelved altogether. Made at Wisconsin’s burgeoning and ultimately failing Windsor Lake Studios, 1993’s The Chill Factor (aka Demon Possessed) was one of those films that made its debut on home video, developing an ultra-minor cult following in the interim.
In the film, a group of college friends gather together for a weekend of snowmobiling at Black Friar Lake, a frozen lakebed in the middle of nowhere. After an accident leaves one of them unconscious and incapacitated, they hole up in a dilapidated cabin nearby. Sending someone for help, they loosen up and break out a Ouija-type board called “The Devil’s Eye,” unknowingly summoning an evil spirit that has come to systematically murder all of them one by one.
The most obvious facet of The Chill Factor is its pace. It’s an incredibly-slow moving film, but not in an interesting way that builds suspense of any kind. It has a lot in common with a film like Clerks in which there’s an abundance of dialogue, much of it filmed in long takes with no cuts. The horror elements don’t even really begin to take effect until nearly an hour in, and in a 85-minute genre film, that makes for a tough sit. The kills are inventive and the gore is well-executed when the film finally gets around to it, but it wastes far too much time spewing obvious and clunky dialogue between characters that are more or less unlikable at any given point.
In other words, the scales are tipped; the character development and the horror set pieces are off balance in what promises at the outset to be an exciting horror movie. A voiceover randomly pops up from time to time to aid the film and keep it from becoming completely stale, but it’s a mostly lost cause. To be succinct, The Chill Factor is likely to leave you cold.
Arrow Video debuts The Chill Factor on Blu-ray with a presentation taken from a new 2K scan of an original 35mm low contrast print of the film. Unfortunately, the transfer is a mixed bag. While the color palette does pop in places and detail is generally favorable, the overall appearance is a bit on the chunky side when it comes to grain and crushed at times when it comes to black levels. Contrast is a tad uneven as well. The most noticeable aspect of this transfer is the amount of debris and speckling leftover, which is not unlikely from a source that’s more or less an internegative of sorts. It doesn’t look that bad when viewing still frames, but in motion, it’s less than stellar qualities are all but obvious.
The audio is included in English 2.0 LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. Thankfully, the audio fares much better than its video counterpart. Dialogue exchanges are clear and discernable, while the synth-laden score broadens the soundtrack’s stereo capabilities. There are no instances of panning or major atmospheric activities, but sound effects have decent impact to them. The track is also clean and free of any other issues, such as leftover hiss, crackle, distortion, and dropouts.
The extras include an audio commentary with special makeup effects assistant Hank Carlson and author Josh Hadley; Lights! Cameras! Snowmobiles!, a 13-minute interview with production manager Alexandra Reed; Fire and Ice, a 12-minute interview with stunt coordinator Gary Paul; Portrait of a Makeup Artist, a 15-minute interview with special makeup effects artist Jeffery Lyle Segal; Ouija and Chill, a 26-minute interview with Hank Carlson, conducted by Josh Hadley; the original VHS workprint of the film from Hank Carlson’s personal archives, which is 84 minutes in length (about a minute or so shorter than the final film) and features no overdubbed voices, voiceover, sound effects, or score (as well as a slightly different ending and alternate edits of death scenes); a still gallery featuring 27 images of production photos and the black-and-white key art for the film’s poster and VHS cover; the home video trailer; and a 24-page insert booklet with cast and crew information, The Chill Factor: A Beautiful Disaster by Mike White, and restoration details.
While there’s a certainty that a case could be made for The Chill Factor’s low budget restrictions versus its lackluster content, a counterargument could be made that other films have fared better with even less at their disposal. To be fair, the film has a few moments of interest, but they’re few and far between. Arrow Video’s release offers a presentation that’s certainly a step up from its VHS and Laserdisc days, but it’s mostly a disappointment. Thankfully, the bonus materials improve the disc’s overall value.
– Tim Salmons