Ice Crawlers (2003)

Starring Goetz Otto, David Millbern, Alexandra Kamp, Brad Sergi

Directed By John Carl Buechler

Bad Movie Sign #1 – The very premise of the movie is utterly derivative of Alien, a movie whose premise has already been ripped off ad nauseum.

Bad Movie Sign #2 – The very premise of the movie blatantly copies that of more than one famous genre film. In this case, a mysterious creature kills off people trapped in an enclosed space (Alien) and the enclosed space happens to be an Antarctic facility (The Thing).

Bad Movie Sign #3 – A guy whose specialty lies in the F/X department is directing and aside from James Cameron, F/X people, for whatever reason, rarely ever succeed when taking the director’s chair.

Bad Movie Sign #4 – Despite being directed by an F/X specialist, the movie’s special effects are still quite unremarkable.

Bad Movie Sign #5 – The director also happens to be the same guy who made Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Goes To College and the writer is the same guy responsible for Backyard Dogs, the backyard wrestling flick that spent a considerable amount of time as #1 on IMDB’s Bottom 100.

Now before I go any further I’m going to just go right ahead and flash the SPOILER WARNING as God knows it would be impossible for me to explain why this movies fails without going into details.

A group of good-looking, young post-graduate students have been called in by this oil company who want the students to survey their new Antarctic oil drilling facility to disprove claims that the place will have a negative impact on the environment. Each of the one-dimensional students specializes in a particular scientific field but only one of them has a specialty that will actually come in handy later on. The equally one-dimensional skeleton crew consists of a handful of rugged, cranky, middle-aged men working at the facility and they are less than happy with the arrival of these young, know-it-all whippersnappers. Unbeknownst to everyone, a carnivorous, prehistoric trilobite has been unearthed and is loose in the facility picking off people one at a time. Who will live? Who will die? Who will care?

Okay, the plot is slightly more complex than that. The whole reason the good-looking college kids have been brought in is because the oil company is evil (Has there ever been a non-evil oil company in a modern film?) and plan to blow up their multibillion-dollar facility, placing all the blame on the careless actions of those meddling kids they’re secretly setting up at patsies. The evil oil corporation knows full well that the facility is really nothing more than a giant money pit and they are up to their necks in legal problems regarding the place so simply destroying it will make their problems go away. But they really don’t even need oil money anymore because they’ve unearthed the perfectly preserved corpse of a prehistoric trilobite, which is essentially a 3-foot, carnivorous, Jurassic cockroach/beetle. While I understand discovering such a thing would be worth a fortune I have a very hard time believing the monetary rewards would make up for billions of dollars in losses from destroying a high tech oil rig.

Every movie needs a red herring and in Ice Crawlers that herring comes to us in the form of a tall Scandinavian oaf, the first to figure out what’s going on and thus his mental capacity rapidly deteriorates to the point that he practically becomes a shotgun-toting Norwegian that slobbers while he spits out sentences in a thick Scandinavian accent while skulking about the facility only to pop up whenever it’s convenient to the plot. Naturally, he gets all the blame for the mysterious disappearances and mounting corpses. His overacting is also the only real entertainment the movie provides as his descent into madness comes from completely out of left field and is so over the top you’d think he was high on PCP.

But at the end of the day, Ice Crawlers is really about a creature I dubbed “Trilly, the magical trilobite.” Trilly, you see, is no ordinary man-eating, prehistoric insect awoken from an icy slumber. No, Trilly has magical powers that your typical man-eating, prehistoric insect didn’t have. Trilly seems to be psychic. Much like Santa, Trilly knows when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake and really knows when you’re taking a bath or shower. Most importantly, Trilly knows when you’re alone. It becomes numbing the sheer number of times there are several people in a room discussing whatever but the moment one of them is alone in that room, Trilly suddenly strikes, having apparently hid somewhere in the room waiting patiently for the very moment when someone would be left alone. It’s ridiculous how often this happens.

But it still isn’t as ridiculous as Trilly’s inexplicable teleportation skills. No explanation is ever given as to how Trilly is able to roam freely about the station undetected while from one area to another in no time flat, especially considering it isn’t portrayed as being a particularly fast moving critter. For example, at one point two of the characters are talking about escaping by helicopter and ask where the pilot is. In the next scene, the pilot is performing maintenance on the chopper only to get killed by Trilly, who has somehow gotten out of the sealed up facility and into the hangar. Nor is there any explanation given to how it gets back inside this steel fortress to kill someone else just a few minutes later. If it would have turned out that there were several of these creatures doing all this then I would have bought it but the movie wants us to believe that this lone bug is behind it all. Therefore I dub this amazing creature “Trilly, the magical trilobite.”

Most of the time you don’t even see the killer bug but instead see things from the bug’s POV. Probably for the best since the trilobite is only slightly more realistic than the mutated sea slugs from Godzilla 1985. That would explain why we mostly see the bug rearing up and hissing. It looks more believable and is more menacing looking in those scenes but there still isn’t a single moment in the film when the trilobite doesn’t look like it is made of plastic. Oh well, at least it wasn’t done completely with CGI.

Virtually every death scene follows the same formula. It latches onto someone’s ankles with these powerful tentacles it has and drags them down to the ground and then we’re treated to a close-up of the victim’s face screaming while accompanied with some black and white flashbacks to scenes earlier in the movie. We’re told the trilobite is eating the internal organs of its victims yet there’s no way it could be so hungry that it needs to kill and feed every 10 minutes so essentially you’re dealing with a psycho slasher in the form of a Jurassic cockroach.

The best kill you get is also another example of how poorly written the movie is. One young couple takes a post-coital nap. He wakes up, rolls her over, and finds that the bug has hollowed her out and is playing peek-a-boo in her mouth. Okay, so was she the world’s heaviest sleeper to the point that she didn’t even wake up and make a peep while this monster tore and bore its way into her body cavity or is he the world’s heaviest sleeper because he didn’t hear her any final screams of agony as this monster eviscerated her? I hate when horror movies like this get so hell-bent on concocting a cheap thrill that they simply abandon any and all common sense in such an annoying manner.

I also hope you don’t plan to rent this looking for T&A. You’ll be sorely disappointed. However, you will get to see the world’s hairiest middle-aged man take his final shower.

And then there’s that horrendous ending that is such an atrociously awful mess my brain has attempted to block out most of the details. As I recall, the last three have to go down to the level with the pool the trilobite came in through because that’s where they have to go to turn on the auxiliary life support systems for the facility or something like that. They kill the trilobite but then this huge centipede-like creature that bares no resemblance to a trilobite pops out of the tank and goes “Boo!” They clearly didn’t have the budget to make the prop do anything because all it does is just sort of stand there and flail a couple of arms while everyone reacts in mortal terror. Finally, they use the explosives that were going to be used to demolish the entire facility to blow up the bug and the pool it came out of yet these explosives conveniently destroy only that one level of the facility allowing our last two survivors to begin making out on the floor above as if this is a happy ending even though they are now trapped in this Antarctic facility for God knows how long with no means of communicating with the outside world and only a limited amount of life support not to mention the fact that all their friends have been horribly killed and the facility is littered with their mutilated corpses. And then the final shot of the movie is an exterior scene where a trilobite tentacle pops out of the ice and wiggles about signifying a possible sequel. Oh, hell no!

Ice Crawlers takes itself way too seriously given the silly concept of a killer prehistoric roach. At its heart it feels like Buechler was trying to make a 1950’s style creature feature but mistakenly chose to go about things with the mentality of a modern slasher flick. The end result is predictable and quite tedious. Everything that happens is strictly by the numbers, which would be all well in good if it was at least done with some flair. There is no suspense here and most shocking giving the director’s pedigree, we don’t even get any good kills. Despite being directed by a guy that has created more than his fair share of gory effects for the movies, Ice Crawlers is surprisingly anemic.

Oh, if only one of Trilly’s magical powers had been quality filmmaking.

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit