Do you like movies that look and feel like they were written during a weekend bender that might have included the sort of drugs that Rick James often used? Do you like movies that star actors whose fortunes have fallen so low that they’d have to rise up a few notches on the cinematic food chain in order to merely be considered “washed up”? Do you like movies made by people that seem to have seen a lot of movies but don’t seem to know how to make one themselves? Well, you’re in luck! Because today I’m reviewing THE CHILLING and it’s a Grade A quality turd.
Quick Recap! When COVID shut down everything in early 2020, I started an online bad movie night get-together with some friends that we eventually dubbed “Bad Movie Monday”. The premise was simple: We’d torture each other every Monday with the worst trash we could find, tell a few jokes, cheer each other up, and in the process maybe discover some weird obscure cinema that we might never have seen any other way. This series of reviews will feature highlights of those night so you can all share in the fun and maybe get some ideas for your own movie night.
After watching the delightfully awful ELVES I started looking for other Dan Haggerty films that would be appropriate for a bad movie night and stumbled upon this gem. My favorite bad films are always the ones whose plots are unpredictable because the filmmakers either didn’t know how to tell a story, or didn’t shoot the footage necessary to tell a coherent story and had to work with what they had. I mean, THE CHILLING’s premise should be simple. Cryogenically Frozen corpses are unfrozen and turn into zombies because they got hit by lightning. Chaos and terror ensues. However, the tone is pretty inconsistent to put it mildly. Some of the scenes feel as if they were pieced together from a different version of the screenplay and other scenes feel as if they were pieced together from a different movie.
Okay, so what’s the back of the VHS box say?
The frozen dead return to life and make things hot for the living in this heart stopping experiment in terror featuring Oscar nominee LINDA BLAIR (The Exorcist), “Grizzly Adams” star DAN HAGGERTY and TROY DONAHUE (The Godfather, Part II). At Universal Cryogenics entire families are preserved in ultra-cold storage awaiting their future resurrection. Unfortunately, the demented doctor in charge has his own diabolical plans for the ice-bound corpses. When a freak lightning storm re-animates the bodies, an undead army of ravenous “cyrenoids” emerges to wreak their unspeakable revenge. Now, only a beautiful young lab assistant and heroic security guard can halt the unearthly, cold-blooded horror of THE CHILLING!
I unironically enjoyed this crap. It’s decently acted, fast paced, and keeps you on your toes with absurd scenes. It’s all you really can ask from a low budget late eighties direct-to-video movie. There’s far less entertaining stuff than this out there, trust me. Besides, it was made by people, artists, with a vision. A very silly vision, but a vision. Back in 1989 someone had a story they wanted to tell but just didn’t have the money or time or resources or skills to pull it off. They did the best they could with what they had and we got this… thing. Yes, it’s a miserable failure, but it’s a lovingly made miserable failure. I’ll take that over the current “advertiser friendly corporate product” that infests cinema these days.
Alright! Now for my favorite part of the review, where I list ten thoughts I had during the film.
#1 The filmmakers mention both God and Satan in the opening crawl, with Satan actually highlighted in red. So you KNOW this is going to be some wild and crazy stuff.
#2 This movie wants to be a scary, action-packed, thrilling, romantic mystery, with relevant social commentary. It will fail at everything.
#3 I do have to say that Dan Haggerty seems far more enthusiastic about this movie than he did in ELVES. That makes me happy.
#4 Many scenes look and feel like they’re from a completely different movie. It’s part of the charm of this crap-fest.
#5 Apparently, after the power goes out and the bodies start to thaw, the coldest place to store a cryogenically frozen corpse is outside during a rainstorm in Los Angeles.
#6 This film obviously went through so many script rewrites that I’m not even sure it started out as a zombie movie.
#7 Every male actor in THE CHILLING is middle-aged, out of shape, and tired looking. So I found this movie rather relatable.
#8 The “cyrenoids” special effects look like they could be replicated with tin foil and 5$ of makeup supplies.
#9 That said, some effects actually do look good. So it’s not all boos from the gallery.
#10 The film should be called “Night of the Stand-ins” for the sheer number of shots that don’t use the actual actors, especially towards the end.