Saturday, March 10, 2007


Since I was anticipating a number of SCIFI Channel shows and mini-series currently in the works, I decided to check out one of their past offerings, Ryan Schifrin’s Abominable, to give me a better idea of how they handled their productions, and this is what it had to offer.

After a brief prologue where a couple has their dog slaughtered by a shadowy creature which emerges from the woods, we join Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy), a wheelchair-bound man recovering from the death of his wife six months ago in a climbing accident (a mishap which also left him paralyzed from the waist down). As part of his therapy, Preston is brought back to the mountain home he shared with his wife, the scene of the tragedy (the aptly named “Suicide Rock”) in plain view.
Reluctant and uncertain, Preston communicates his hesitancy to Otis (Christien Tinsley), the terribly irresponsible orderly in whose care he is left for the weekend. Otis, of course, does not listen.

Shortly after Preston’s arrival, a group of five female friends natter their way into the house across the way, and things kick into gear. With the Rear Window gambit firmly in place (terrible things happen as a crippled man watches, helpless to stop them), Preston is the horrified witness no one wants to believe. (Otis thinks Preston is being hysterical, the girls think he’s a perv with binoculars, and the cops think he’s some prankster.) Of course, the fact that he claims there’s a monster outside doesn’t really help his case any.

As a director, Schifrin is capable, delivering some sequences of suspense that actually work. He also gives us one of those unlikely heroes in Preston, a grieving widower stuck to a wheelchair. He’s not Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise, but he’s resourceful enough in a pinch. (Though why he doesn’t send more than just two text messages to the poor girls is anybody’s guess.)

Sadly, some of the bits of Abominable that don’t work are those moments when we actually see the monster in all its hairy glory. It seems as if ‘Squatch either had a stroke, or one too many Botox injections, as his facial muscles are not terribly mobile. And you know you’re in a spot of trouble when you’re making a monster movie and you can’t really show too much of your monster lest the audience see how fakey it really is. (A director like Spielberg can get away with it—and he did, in Jaws—but Schifrin is certainly no Spielberg.)

Much of the novelty of Abominable comes from the appearances of genre icons like Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs (initially unrecognizable as the gas station convenience store clerk), Lance Henriksen (Aliens and TV’s Millennium), and Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling and E.T. Oh, and Cujo, too), though their screen times are minimal at best.

Still, warts and all, Abominable is (contrary to its title) actually watchable, though certainly not a masterpiece; I just hope that the SCIFI Channel has gotten better with their productions.

Parting shot: Ryan Schifrin is the son of noted film composer, Lalo Schifrin (perhaps best known for penning the Mission: Impossible theme), and Ryan was smart enough to get daddy to score Abominable. Nepot.

Parting shot 2: Christien Tinsley, who plays Otis, is a noted make-up and prosthetics artist who’s worked with Hollywood biggies like Russell Crowe, Matt Damon, and Vin Diesel (four times! Vinnie must love the guy). He’s also the man responsible for the prosthetic tattoo transfers for The Passion of the Christ. On a sadder note, he’s also the creature effects coordinator on Abominable. (I guess `Squatch was a difficult diva to work with…)

(Originally posted 021107)

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