Deep in the frigid mountains of Colorado, the proprietors of the Rill Lodge Ski Resort have come under attack by a creature so vicious, even John Denver's succulent voice cannot stop it. A monster that feels not the pain of the winter's biter cold as it is driven by a thirst for blood that can only be quenched by that of yuppie skiers decked out in Fluoro ski suits. Many have heard of Bigfoot, Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, but they all fail in comparison and can do nothing more than bow down before the ultimate elemental survivor, the Snowbeast! What's the difference between all of these creatures? Actually, outside of coat color, I don't think there really is, but the name Snowbeast does have a badass ring to it, now doesn't it? One thing I am sure of is, things are about to get rocky up in these here mountains.
This 1977 made for television horror film uses the often imitated Jaws formula but does add a whole lot of skiing to the mix. Not water skiing, mind you…that was in Jaws. I mean real skiing. Not that water skiing isn't real skiing or anything, I just mean the kind of skiing that is done on slopes that are made of compacted snow and ice. I would hate to insult my waterskiing readership in any way. Anyways, it's the 50th Annual Winter Carnival at the Rill Lodge and Ski Resort and a record turnout is expected for this festival of fun in the clouded sun. Things are going just peachy, that is, until two girls are attacked by a SNOWBEATS (sorry, I'm so pumped I can't even seem to spell it right!)! One of the girls gets away, which is hysterical because without even a hint of hesitation, she takes the fuck off at the first sound of this mythic creature, leaving her so called friend behind to get her ass eaten up.
Now, this poses a serious problem. You see, generally when people are killed by Snowbeasts, winter carnivals are cancelled, right? Wrong. Don't forget, this is the 50th winter carnival and there is no way in hell some Snowbeast is going to stop such a joyous event. It's the 50th, man! That shit only comes around every few years, so there is no chance that it can just be cancelled due to some human hungry creature - with an incredible fur coat - ripping skiers to shreds. The resort's owner, Carrie Rill (Sylvia Sidney), convinces her grandson and resort manager, Tony (Robert Logan), that if they just tape off the area where the Snowbeast attacked and possibly may have KILLED the girl, all would be just fine. Tony begrudgingly goes along with it because it is his grandmother's place, and who knows…maybe the MURDER is just a fluke. Nothing to worry about at all.
While all of this nasty Snowbeast nonsense is happening, one of Tony's old friends, Gar (Bo Svenson) and his wife Ellen (Yvette Mimieux), show up in the hopes that Gar can find work at the resort. Gar - an Olympic ski champion, not the guy from Mask - has fallen on hard times, but thankfully for him, Tony's got a spot for him and apparently, Ellen has a spot for Tony. A hot spot, if you will. You see, at one time Tony and Ellen were a thing, but life happens, they separated ways and Ellen went off and married Gar. Now it seems very clear that Ellen is ready for a little ride down Tony's ski pole, but Tony avoids the advances, and I think I know why…
See, Tony and Gar share a whole lot of one-on-one time together in Snowbeast. Enjoying meals together, swimming in hot springs together (in their underwear, naturally), lounging around in bathrobes together and had it not been a made for TV affair, I'm sure they would have tried to make cute little snow resort babies together too. It was the track in which they were on, there is no denying the signs.
The only thing that can keep these two man thirsty bears focused on something outside of each other is hunting down a massive, hairy, powerful monster with big feet that would love nothing more than to eat them right up. Oh, my. These mountains are vastly rockier than I would have expected. Yeah, that's three Rocky Mountain High joke attempts. What of it?
Snowbeast came out in 1977, and with that comes a nice retro aesthetic filled with stylish ski clothing, some great hair and a ski lodge that is to die for. And I am a sucker for 70s fashion and décor, so Snowbeast gets a few easy points right there. However, much like many films from the time, Snowbeast moves pretty slowly overall, with multiple scenes where you simply just watch assorted characters skiing for what seems like days on end. Granted, the skiing is actually nicely shot, but a solo-search scene via skis that lasts for a good five minutes is a bit much to ask of from an audience. Skiing is great to watch and all, but I'd prefer a little more Snowbeast in my Snowbeast.
As I mentioned beforehand, Snowbeast is essentially a Jaws rip-off, so with that comes the less you see, the scarier it is approach. I'm not too sure that director Herb Wallerstein was able to obtain that less is more quite like the classic killer shark film. What worked in Jaws was how perfect the tension was built, but also the characters and their interactions with one another were all more than enough to keep most people on that hook during the non-shark moments. Nevertheless, when on screen, the Snowbeast looks cool enough, and I love me a good old cheap claw attack here and there if not for how silly it is. There are a few decent pay off scenes, one in particular being when the titular creature attacks the snow queen ceremony, as well as a decent little cabin attack.
It's a made for TV movie from the 70s, so it's pretty much what you would expect, I suppose. It's not too violent, not too scary and not all too good but it isn't terrible either. It works as a nice little winter horror film that makes for a perfect background watch while you're doing something else. Like skiing.