Ice Quake
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Ice Quake



The so-called Saturday Night specials presented on a regular basis on the SyFy channel have become a staple among the diehard fans of the genre. The quality runs an exceptionally broad gamut from truly horrendous to acceptably solid pieces of entertainment. It is certain that none of the filmmakers of these flicks will be ever honored during award season for their production, but a few provide sufficient fun to keep the format from becoming a complete laughing stock. The idea behind this string of original films was brilliantly simple. The network allocates about $5 million or so to produce a flick with a standard science fiction, fantasy or disaster-oriented foundation, cast a couple of actors established in the genre and add special effects consistent with the miniscule budget. Many younger members of the audience may deride these movies as being the blockbuster epics that have become standard but cost more than the GNP of a small country. Such films are undoubtedly fantastic achievements and have propelled the cinematic arts into the new millennium, but they also have jaded an entire generation of fans. Those out there that remember the more innocent era of Saturday after matinees at the neighborhood movie theater can appreciate a more modest type of filmmaking. Today’s audience may eschew the creature features and cataclysmic flicks engendered then, but the provided the foundation for our love of movies. The movie ‘Ice Quake’ is a strong example of this hypothesis. While not great by any means it was a reasonably good popcorn flick. This movie was not only fun, but it stood firmly on the higher end of the SyFy flick spectrum. It covered all the required tropes necessary to classify it as a natural disaster flick with the right balance of pseudoscience and soap opera themes. As far as this series of movies go it will provide a good old fashion enjoyable time. While this movie will not ‘wow’ it also, more importantly, will not disappoint you either. The film sets the mood to follow as a blend of action with the hint of tongue in cheek humor through its opening shot of Santa Claus on a snow ski careening down a snow-laden mountain. There is also a geologist measuring tectonic activity which economically establishes the required basis of a semi-realistic scientific foundation. It takes only a few minutes before this is neatly tied together to make sure everyone watching realizes this is a disaster flick and just what the title refers to. A crack appears on the mountainside that morphs into an expanding chasm. Punctuating the mayhem is a series of icy geysers exploding along the quickly moving fissure jetting ice high into the air. Some may look at this brief opening sequence and see the start of a ‘B’ flick, but I postulate an alternative analysis. This is an incredibly tight introduction to the film to follow. Director and co-screenwriter Paul Ziller take only a matter of minutes to give the audience a considerable amount of exposition. Santa is a well-known geologist Michael Webster (Brendan Fehr) who has taken his family up to the Alaskan tundra for a scholarly study of climatic changes. His family is typical of this sort of film written to touch every conceivable archetype necessary to extend the predictable story. There is the faithful wife, Emily (Holly Elissa Lamaro) who keeps hearth and home smoothly running while Michael is busy taking never-ending measurements of conditions on the mountainside. Required to add a touch of family discord we meet the daughter, Tia (Jodelle Ferland) who manifests a modicum of teen rebellion without sliding into the Lifetime movie serious problems territory. The last member of this pivotal family unit is the young son, Ryan (Ryan Grantham) who fulfills the function of comic relief, the potential victim, and foil for the verbal barbs typical of an older sister. In keeping with the holiday motif, Michael wants to go old school and chop down their Christmas tree much to the chagrin of the ever whining Tia. She is the typical moody teenage girl who just wants to be left alone to text her friends in peace. So up the mountain, they trek blissfully ignoring the strange but deadly events of the morning. His friend was just killed by a bizarre explosion and the ground opening, so there is nothing natural than packing up the wife, kids, and family dog to go back up. They do make the excuse that the incident was not on that specific part of the mountain so it was safe to assume that something never seen before would happen where they are going only a few miles away.

The role of Cassandra, the prophetess of doom, is taken by independent research scientist Dr. Bruce Worthington (Rob LaBelle) known locally as the Methane Man due to his gloomy predictions of the natural gas building up to environmentally apocalyptic giga-ton levels. Prefixing any measurement with ‘Giga’ is certain to add an element of danger. It worked in ‘Back to the Future’ after all. No one is laughing now as the gas is being released explosively threatening not only the family trapped on the mountain but all life on the planet. One of the most frequently used special effects here is the earth splitting. It separates the parents and children which is the most immediate driving force for much of the film. As the parents desperately race up the mountain to a point where they can cross over the kids must put their sibling bickering aside long enough to survive. In this section of the movie, Tia’s main purpose is to pout, scream and receive minor injuries. The final resolution is to redirect the escaping gas top and convenient oil refinery and safely burn it off. Don’t get started about the science involved in this plan. The Mythbusters have proven that igniting methane has some caveats but scientific accuracy in a disaster flick is only required to sound impressive not be scientifically sound.

The special effects are better than most of the SyFy fair particularly those with a creature feature slant. Believable natural catastrophes are easily to pull off than an unstoppable monster of some sort. The Blu-ray edition of the film comes across as an ingenious use of the resolution both in the audio and video. The texture of the snow and other elements of the landscape were impressive in the amount of detail perceptible. You can discern ice crystals and flake almost on an individual basis. The soundstage produced by the DTS Master audio was equally well done. Instead of relegating the rear speakers to broadening the field with reverberation they are nicely put to use to fill in discrete Foley effects that enhanced a realistic sound. The avalanches and explosions made certain the subwoofer had plenty to do, while the film is not particularly original it manages to serve as a good piece of entertainment.

Posted         12/25/11            Posted 12/30/2017

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