Mister Frost (1990)

JANUARY 1, 2010


I think Mister Frost was the first movie that made me aware that some films were never given a wide theatrical release. I remember seeing it advertised in the in-store "magazine" for my local video store, and thinking "What is this movie? How did I not hear about it when it was in theaters?" I then promptly forgot all about it until today, when I realized I had no disc rentals and went to Netflix to see what they had available for instant viewing.

Well I'm glad I saw it now instead of then. Even now I was a bit bored, but as a kid I probably wouldn't have been able to even finish it. It's an intriguing idea to be sure, but the execution is a tad too dry, with the few actual horror highlights seemingly thrown in simply to ensure the audience knew they were watching a horror movie (not unlike the way I felt Antichrist, incidentally). I kept hoping for Goldblum to get a chance to cut loose and chew the hell out of the scenery (and the set, and the other actors, and maybe even the camera itself), but apart from a big rant halfway through, he is actually sort of subdued the entire time.

Except, of course, for the opening scenes, which are also pretty much the film's best. A cop comes to investigate a claim from two would-be robbers that they saw a body in his garage, and Goldblum is baking a souffle. He then takes a Polaroid of it and throws the perfectly good treat away, explaining that he's only interested in "the trophy" (the photo, of which he has several dozen lining the walls of the kitchen) and that he doesn't care much for sweets. Hahahaha, awesome. Nowadays this would be the "whimsical" trait (read: all that passes for character development) of a minor character in some bullshit faux indie movie starring Zooey Deschanel or whoever the fuck, but to see it used in more or less the same capacity for the goddamn DEVIL is awesome.

However, that leads to my biggest problem with the film (which I otherwise enjoyed, though not in a "I must watch this again right now!" type of way), which is that they don't play out the mystery of whether or not he is the Devil or just some loon long enough. Pretty much at the end of the first act, he melts a piece of jewelry with his bare hands, which means he's either the Devil or the world's most limited-use X-men, but either way, not just crazy for sure. I would have liked to have seen this been more of a through-line of the movie, with the reveal saved for the end of the SECOND act, resulting in a crazy-ass third act.

The film's other best scene is when Goldblum goes off on a rant, and makes a pretty amazing point about how the concept of God and the Devil is no longer as relevant in the modern world. Paraphrasing here, he basically says "Back in the day, one would pray to God or sell their soul to the Devil in order to get what they want, now they take a pill." Again though, it brings up an intriguing idea that the movie never really explores - is anyone even afraid of the Devil? Other than Kathy Baker's character, he doesn't really interact with anyone else who is aware of his identity.

Most of the horror stuff stems from the subplot in which Goldblum possesses a fellow patient, who gets out and begins killing priests. The scenes aren't particularly violent, and again, seem like they are just there to spice things up a bit. The film's most chilling scene, however, is actually kill-free. It's a flashback in which Goldblum tells the cop that his wife's final words were to curse him for not being there to save her (dude, that is HARSH, even for the Devil).

This scene also clarified an issue I've always wondered about: in movie scenes where people tell a story, are they actually telling the person each thing that the characters in the story are saying? Apparently, they do - when the cop finishes telling Baker's character the story, she inquires about a particular line that Goldblum said. I want to see an alternate version where we just watch the cop recite each line. "And then I said 'What have you done?', and then he said 'Wouldn't you like to know?' and I said 'Tell me or I'll kill you!' and then his eyes lit up like that's what he wanted me to do, and then he leaned back in his chair a bit and smiled and said 'If you must.', and then..."

I'd totally endorse a remake of this movie. Not only do I think the idea of the Devil not being the go-to guy for when people want a quick fix for their lives might be even more relevant today (in addition to more and more pills, we also have Scientology, debt settlement negotiators, lawsuits filed for any old reason, etc.), but also they could toy more with the idea that he might just be some loon. And with a wacky enough actor in the role (hell, Goldblum could even reprise it, though, of course, Nic Cage would be my choice) I don't think people would even feel cheated if he DID turn out to just be some whackjob this time around. And then maybe the original movie would get released on DVD, as I understand this US version is 15 minutes shorter than its UK cut. Whether that version is better or not, I have no idea (I can't even find a description of the differences), but I might be curious enough to watch THAT version someday.

What say you?

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  1. I saw this a loooong time ago, and remember being surprised by it and liking it a good deal. Of course I was young and in college then, and Picket Fences was huge. It might not hold up after all this time.

  2. I always thought it was interesting that this and EXORCIST III were both made in the same year (granted, Blatty's novel LEGION came along first) as they are painfully similar in terms of plot details.

  3. You're right, I meant to mention the E3 similarities. I really should read Legion (I've owned it for a decade!) someday.

  4. This movie was the second bill on a double feature some friends of mine held. The first was Candyman which no one took seriously after the kid said "Candyman's gonna get me." And a friend said "What the fuck, Sammy Davis Jnr's gonna get you?!?" The movie became a comedy after that. But this movie held us. It never came close to being scary but was definitely interesting. This movie and the Cassavattes' starring vehicle, The Incubus, are ripe for remaking.

  5. One of the best beginnings of a horror movie of all time, but as you note, the rest is one big let down. Very unfortunate, since Goldblum could have played the hell out of that character.


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