The Chill Factor Poster

The Chill Factor (1993) Review

Right from the opening, The Chill Factor, aka Possessed By Demons, has an odd feel to it. Over a montage of scenes from the film, we hear a voice-over by an older version of Jeannie, voiced not by Dawn Laurrie who plays her in the film but by Barbara Claman who was the casting director on over ninety films including The Changeling, Grizzly II: Revenge and The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak. But she wasn’t involved in the casting of this film.

It begins on an ominous note, “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.” The last words synch up with what is a major spoiler, no less.

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It then gets just plain odd, “I was so in love, it was crazy. But I was happy and carefree, and he was everything I’d ever dreamed of. A college boy so handsome I could have died. I never figured out why he proposed. He didn’t love me in the same way I loved him. And deep inside, I knew it. But his best friend Chris was dating his older sister, and his other friend Ron got engaged to a black girl, so who knows? The year 2000 was just around the corner, and maybe we were all a little crazy. I was young, and I was pretty, and I could drive a sled better than any of them.”

Considering The Chill Factor was released in 1993, and looks like it was shot a few years before, it’s safe to conclude that Jeannie and Tom (Aaron Kjenaas, Astonished, Untamed Heart), Chris (David Fields, The World According to Garp, Divorce Law) and Karen (Connie Snyder), Ron (Jim Cagle, Spooked in Bridgewater) and Lissa (Eve Montgomery) aren’t exactly on the edge of the new millennia. It’s also odd that she has to mention that Lissa is “a black girl” as if we couldn’t see that for ourselves.

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After some footage of them racing around on their snowmobiles they stop at a bar where, of course, one of the locals tosses the N word at Lissa, leading to a very badly staged scuffle between him and Ron. More disturbing than that though is watching Tom cop a feel of his uncomplaining sister’s ass.

Maybe I should have expected this sort of weirdness because The Chill Factor was written by Julian Weaver, whose other credit are The Inheritor and the absolutely batshit Trapped Alive. While this was the only film directed by Christopher Webster, he was a producer on Trapped Alive, as well as the first two Hellraiser films, Heathers and Deadgirl, among others.

In any case, with the temperature falling, they need to find shelter while they get help for Tom, who’s suffered a major concussion. This leads them to Camp St. Dominic, an abandoned Christian summer camp with a sinister history and a Ouija board hidden in a closet. It’s not long until The Chill Factor becomes The Evil Dead on a sled, as evil spirits begin possessing, and killing, the stranded friends off.

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While it’s a very uneven film, The Chill Factor has more going for it than I expected based on what I’d read. While the smallish cast means a relatively small body count, cinematographer Joseph Friedman, whose credits include working with Alfred Sole both on his debut feature, the porn flick Deep Sleep and his follow-up, the cult slasher Alice, Sweet, Alice, manages to bring out the creepiness of the abandoned camp toe help keep things from getting dull.

The deaths we do get include a ceiling fan that has the ability to lower itself down to stalk its victims, although the actual killing is off-screen, and an icicle through the eye that we do see. The film also ends with a fairly exciting snowmobile chase that ends with a decapitation and explosion. Nothing epic, but Hank Carlson’s (Deep Woods, Mindwarp) effects are enough to keep things at least mildly interesting.

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But it’s the film’s overall weirdness that keeps it from totally bogging down, especially the relationship between Tom and his sister who seem way too close, even before demons get involved. The way she grins when he says he’ll give her a pain in her ass is just all kinds of wrong. Unfortunately, the script just leaves it hanging there with neither an explanation nor having it impact the plot.

While hardly a lost treasure, The Chill Factor is enjoyable if you keep your expectations in check. It’s just odd enough to stay interesting, with enough WTF moments to get it through its slower moments.

After its VHS release on the budget A.I.P. label, The Chill Factor faded even further into obscurity until Arrow Video decided to restore it and give it a Blu-ray release a few years back. It’s also available on several streaming services, including Tubi where I found it.

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