“The nightmare came to me before dawn, sneaking into my mind, disguising itself as an ordinary dream. And that’s when the first chapter of my life, my childhood, ended. What I didn’t know was that the nightmare would come true, and when it was over, it would just be the beginning of something far worse.”
Thus speaks the voice of Jeannie, recalling the events of thirty years before when she and her friends went on a winter holiday to celebrate the birthday of soon-to-be-doctor Chris and ended up at Black Friar Lake; “the year 2000 was just around the corner,” Jeannie says, meaning that presumably she is broadcasting this message from the deep future.
In fact, The Chill Factor was shot across the winter of 1988 to 1989, though it was not released until 1993; also known as Demon Possessed, it has now been remastered from the original film elements for release on Blu-ray by Arrow, a snowblown stillborn popsicle of Wisconsin-set Satanic cult low-budget horror.
“Black Friar Lake was white, a shifting blanket of snow driving across the dark ice beneath us,” continues elder Jeannie, “If I’d had the right words, maybe I could’ve stopped it right there.” That would have been wise, as her nightmare becomes a premonition and in a snowmobile race across the frozen lake bed, her fiancé Tom crashes and is injured.
Tom suffering from a concussion, lacerations and possible internal injuries and rapidly slipping into shock, miles from the town and with the night coming in, Chris says he won’t survive the trip back, so they have to find shelter closer to where they are, so Tom’s sister Karen and their friend Ron set out.
Finding what they presume to be a boarded up hunting lodge, it is in fact the former site of Saint Dominic’s Camp, abandoned decades before. Breaking in, lighting a fire and doing their best to keep Tom warm to stabilise him, during the night Ron’s fiancée Lissa goes exploring and finds that before it was closed there was a scandal involving a Satanic cult just before she meets her fate with a ceiling fan.
Directed by Christopher Webster, previously a producer on two Hellraiser films as well as Heathers and Meet the Applegates, the script of The Chill Factor is credited to Julian Weaver though on the commentary track horror writer Josh Hadley suggests this might be a pseudonym for Webster himself and special effects artist Hank Carlson is not able to dispute the theory.
What is apparent is that Webster was more successful as a producer than as a writer or a director, The Chill Factor the only directorial credit listed on his resume and a mess in terms of structure and execution, never overcoming the limitations of the budget, the talent or the shortcomings of the script.
The entire cast lacking appreciable experience, Dawn Laurrie, Aaron Kjenaas, Connie Snyder, David Fields, Eve Montgomery and Jim Cagle, they are not helped by the terrible dialogue or the unbalanced plot, the overlong first act failing to develop the characters until after a game of Satanic spin-the-bottle they then individually march to their deaths; curiously, with the “Devil Eye” inactive during Karen’s death it can be surmised it was her own incompetence that killed her.
Accompanied by an early workprint of the film and interviews with the production manager, the stunt coordinator and the makeup artist as well as Carlson, his commentary with Hadley is actually more entertaining than the film itself, accurately summing it up in the opening moments: “If you’ve watched the trailer for this movie, you’ve seen the whole movie.”