Films made for the Sci-Fi channel have a reputation for cheapness, dullness, and zeitgeist abuse that is rivaled only by The Asylum mockbusters. It’s not that they’re bad, so much as they always make you think of a better movie that you could be watching. So, when sitting down to watch this film from the renowned Hallmark Channel Christmas romance director Tibor Takács (who also did the well-regarded The Gate back in the 80s), expectations were set to “please don’t suck”. Thankfully, these heady heights were surpassed.
The setup is as the setup often is: a collection of cliches rolled together from a bunch of people with long resumes that you don’t recognise. This time “The Wayward Youths” are a bunch of Olympic skiing hopefuls, “The Wise But Brought Low Elder” is an ex-Olympic hopeful who shattered his legs purely for dialogue purposes, and “The Place In The Wilderness” for “The Unknown Terror” to eat them all is the Lost Mountain ski resort, which is an inherently illogical name if you overthink about it during the dull opening sections and only 4-star service.
So everyone arrives at Obviously Found Mountain, the young buck and the Wise Elder say a lot of skiing words and swap backstories, and the Victory Cookie female characters are rolled out for us to go “wow… you sure look like you escaped from the 90s” at. There is also some surprisingly good skiing footage, for people who care about that sort of thing. It’s not as impressive as skiing focused film, but it shows off the landscape and gives you the kind of “oooh, they’re a bit good at this” feels you’d get from watching people doing a black run whilst you’re taking the lift up to a leisurely blue.
Meanwhile, at the secret underground military base which is as obvious as a corpse in a swimming pool, everything has gone to shit and a whole bunch of irresponsibly large CGI killer spiders are on the loose. They chew through the comically ill-equipped and under-skilled special forces mooks to demonstrate the stakes, and that’s where the fun really kicks off as the assorted deaths and dismemberment are both surprisingly gory and amusing. Rather than just working off the inherent “urgh, spiders!” factor, the script and direction put enough thought into making them sinister and frightening. They do such a good job of it that you’ll eventually get over how cheap the effects look.
Further plot points happen, resulting in sufficient atrocities to keep things going. Twists twist, acts go through the designated order, and Chekov’s Guns are pointed out and then go off in mostly obvious, but occasionally surprising, manners. All surprisingly competent stuff, but what really impresses is how much the cast gets into it all. They clearly all know that what they are working on is a b-movie, and that make of their lines are clunky garbage, but there is a commitment to playing things straight-faced and true that elevate things up a notch so that you miraculously end up enjoying the film.
The end result is not a great work of art or a sage for the ages. It’s 86 minutes of “of its time” time filler that gets the job done well enough to make you not hate it. And that job is to hit all the right buttons at all the right times to make you care about what’s happening to the key characters on screen, to get across enough horror and laughs to keep you entertain, and to work through its inherent shortcomings to be a Treasure of a watch. It won’t change your life, but if you get enough like-minded chums together to watch it then it will most likely change your evening for the better.