Abominable (2006)

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 04/16/06 13:26:09

"The title refers to the monster and (thankfully) not the movie."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

A low-budget b-level monster flick that has no pretensions of being anything but, "Abominable" is, to my semi-astonished surprise, actually a pretty good time -- provided you have a taste for the old-school-style monster-run-amok confections. A few slow spots and lapses in logic are counter-balanced quite nicely by a colorful cast of genre stars, plus the monster is a freaky-looking behemoth who doesn't mind doling out the gore!

Indie horror flicks looking for an internet leg up sometimes arrive at my doorstep, hoping for a review. In some cases, these movies are so rotten that, out of sheer kindness and the fact that I'm busy, I don't even review 'em. Conversely, when one of these little terror tales ends up to be good fun, I stick my head out of my burrow, state something like "Hey, horror fans, this one ain't half-bad!" and hope my small dose of praise helps the flick out in some way.

Case in point is Ryan Schifrin's Abominable, an entirely familiar yet slyly entertaining little throwback to the days of Grizzly, Pumpkinhead, and Prophecy -- with a big dose of Rear Window tossed in, just to amp the tension up a little.

Matt McCoy plays a wheelchair-bound widower who chooses the completely wrong weekend to revisit the site of his wife's death. Almost immediately after arriving at an isolated (yet semi-swanky) cabin, our hero comes to realize that a massive mutant-monster is roaming nearby. Yes, it's Bigfoot. And wouldn't you know it: Here come five hot hotties to celebrate a bachelorette's weekend in the woods. Toss in a trio of bumbling hunters and a few clueless cops ... and you got yourself a perfectly enjoyable little monster movie.

First-time writer/director Ryan Schifrin (son of mega-veteran composer Lalo Schifrin) may have chosen an "easy in" for his first flick (because, let's be honest, no genre has fans like the horror genre does), but it seems pretty clear that the kid was weaned on some of the finest horror schlock of the 1970s and '80s. Employing a crisp visual style and an enjoyably off-kilter sense of pacing, Schifrin borrows from many -- but does so for good reason. The Rear Window aspect of Abominable may seem an outright cheat to some viewers, but I say borrowing a gimmick from Hitchcock is a whole lot more admirable than presenting yet another "point & shoot" horror tale.

And since Abominable was clearly made with horror geeks in mind, the cast list is pretty fun to run through: Aside from McCoy (a underrated actor probably best known as "Lloyd Braun" in a few Seinfeld episodes -- but I'll always remember him as the star of We Got It Made), we've got Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), Dee Wallace-Stone (The Hills Have Eyes), Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club), Rex Linn (Cliffhanger), Phil Morris (Seinfeld's lunatic lawyer), and, my very favorite scream-queen, the lovely Tiffany Shepis. So while it's true that Abominable belongs mainly to two characters (McCoy's crippled hero and the giant hungry monster), the background is populated with plenty of fun and familiar faces. (Horror fans love it when that happens.)

But you're not here to read about the slow spots, the plot, or the cast. You want to know about the monster and its numerous unpleasant activities. Suffice to say that Schifrin might be slow to deliver his beastie in all its carnivorous splendor -- but once this flick gets rolling, there's some really cool mayhem to be found in Abominable. And, shock of all shocks, the young director actually uses his Hitchcock technique to deliver some actual scares! To me this indicates a filmmaker working with more talent than budget, and I'm pleased to note that the "peering out of windows" sequences (which in another movie could be deadly dull) are actually pretty creepy.

If you're the sort of movie geek who'll rent any ol' monster movie under the sun, then you're probably used to titles like, say, Sasquatch (which also featured Lance Henriksen, oddly enough) that are as poorly made as they are interminably boring. But Abominable is a whole lot better than most of its ilk; it's a low-budget monster-romp that's mounted with crispness and creativity, written with a tongue-in-cheek vibe that never becomes outright silly, populated by a bunch of colorful actors, and capped off with a really satisfying stretch of Bigfoot Brutality.

(Note: Although not produced for the network, Abominable will make its 'general public' debut on the Sci Fi Network. I'm going on record early when I say that this flick is (easily) one of the best movies ever to debut as a "Sci Fi Original." Damning with faint praise, I know, but you'll know what I mean once you see the flick.)

Basically, I refuse to knock a solid little horror flick for being cheaply made -- especially while truly abysmal stuff like "Stay Alive" and "When a Stranger Calls" opens to $12 million at the box office. "Abominable" is not flashy or brilliant or staggeringly unique ... but it's still a good deal of well-constructed fun, and that's pretty much all that matters in my book.

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