aka 大雪怪 aka Da Xue Guai
Written by Sheng Fan Zhang and Pian Jia Leng
Directed by Huang He
NetFlix isn’t the only streaming platform pumping out a ton of their original movies to drive up views, China has several big streaming companies and they are all creating their own content in a bet to win sole control of views. Streaming platform Youku has greenlit a ton of original content, but the films of interest to us are several that are basically SyFy Channel original movies! They got giant snakes, giant alligators, sea monsters, the list goes on and on. But most importantly, they have Snow Monster, which is pretty much King Kong in snow demon form. Also there are ice sharks! Yes, Snow Monster fights the ice sharks! This is some of what we call pretty amazing stuff.
The Snow Monster himself is not a gorilla or even an ape. It appears to be a huge furry satyr, complete with a long tail. The fur is snow white, the hands only have three fingers and a thumb, the legs are bent like goat legs, and the head is adorned with two large goat horns, one of which is partially snapped off. The monster himself is a mix of guy in suit and CGI depending on the scene needs, but more often than not he is just a guy standing there reacting to what is going on. This makes it sort of charming in a low budget cinema sort of way.
Of course there are no English subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! The plot is pretty easy to follow, the monsters don’t need to talk, and while we have all seen this before, and it’s fun to see it again done different with the shadow of the original sprawling over it. Part of the film has the same trouble the Peter Jackson King Kong did, in that we spend a bunch of time running around with monsters that aren’t the giant monster of the title. I don’t know how much planning you need for a Snow Monster movie but there are like 25 people credited. If this keeps up with the other Youku films I got on the docket than I will keep you posted, otherwise I would advise getting a job as a film planner as they seem to be giving them away! I identified who I could in the cast, but as I don’t know what the names of the characters they are playing are, I’m just going to refer to them by their real names. Since this is a harder to find movie (unless you are specifically looking for it), this will be more of a recap review.
Snow Monster does keep the monster in the winter wonderland where it exists instead of having a sequence where it is brought back to the city to cause trouble. That’s obviously a cost consideration, but it also points to the reality of transporting a gigantic monster out of a hostile environment and then into an urban environment without their being any sort of issues, something most of the Kong films just handwave away.
Snow monster, snow sharks, monster birds, a random dinosaur skeleton that seems put there because there were big skeletons in Kong: Skull Island except those were Kong’s family and here it makes no sense unless Snow Monster’s dad was a tyrannosaur. It’s Snow Monster, baby!
Instead of an uncharted island, the monsters here are in a hidden valley deep in the mountains. It is a lost land accessible only by ancient maps and secret clues, to the point where they have to hire an Indiana Jones type (played by Tim Wu) to read the map! Don’t worry, he’s cool, when we first are introduced to him, he’s running a curio shop and beating up the many many shoplifters known to frequent curio shops.
The film first opens with a research van driving around the mountainous region, with actress Zhang Yongxian playing the head of the expedition. However, their van manages to park right on top of where the Snow Monster was napping in the snow, and when it stands up the van gets knocked around and communication is lost. The hero guide played by Tim Wu is the ex-boyfriend of Zhang Yongxian, adding another layer to the rescue attempt. The entire thing seems sponsored by a biotech company that has an entire command room filled with communication satellites and expeditions across the globe. Having worked in similar places, the amount of money spent on this command room is insane, but it’s also just one less useless executive’s bonus. So maybe it’s not that ridiculous… We see Snow Monster’s hands come up in this sequence with an almost identical animation to when we first see King Kong in Kong: Skull Island, which must be a coincidence. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Tim Wu will lead a very heavily armed rescue team that is constantly pointing their guns randomly in the backgrounds of scenes where there is nothing going on. There also seems to have no medical personal (??!!) despite this being some sort of biotechnology conglomerate funding all of this. The rescue mission doesn’t just go for a drive, instead they need to start following an old map and press stones that have other stone pillars come out of the ground and booby traps get sprung, as we’re suddenly doing Goonies all up in my Snow Monster! How did the van drive through all of this? Never explained, maybe they just brought pieces of the van and then built it on the other side…
The rescue group all fall down a giant pit and discover a bunch of old human skeletons there, and all the skeletons with suspicious massive head trauma. The cause is soon revealed to be thousands of birds with jagged razor beaks! Weirdly similar to creatures in Kong: Skull Island that were more background creatures. Despite the huge amount of automatic weapons fire, many members of the valiant militarized rescue team are killed, including a few characters we saw for half a second before they were killed! Not that guy! At least we have an excuse to thin out the cast…to a slightly smaller rescue team filled with militarized goons obviously up to no good, making trouble in Snow Monster’s neighborhood.
As they make it into the snowy mountain valley, they discover the moon looks much larger here (are they closer to the moon by being up so high in the atmosphere? Is this a parallel world?) and also the Aurora Borealis is going on. yes, the Aurora Borealis. At this time of year. At this time of day. In this part of the country. Localized entirely in a mysterious mountain region where a giant snow satyr runs around. But at least you can see it. You can also see a random Tyrannosaurus Rex just lying on top of the snow. Don’t worry, many of the surviving military guys point their guns at both the skeleton and the empty snow to make sure everyone is safe. They do manage to find random pieces of the van. But then…
ICE SHARK ATTACK!!! As in, giant sharks who swim in the snow start jumping up and eating guys whole! Also these sharks have lots of random spikes on them because, why not have a bunch of random spikes on your ice sharks? But don’t call them icicles or ice picks, they are ice shark spikes, it’s totally different!
So if the ice sharks are eating people whole, what ate the T-rex that left it’s skeleton intact and laid out like a museum exhibit? Do we got an anal-retentive ice shark?
The rescue team eventually realizes they are now in a weird version of Tremors and get on some rocks to try to stop the sharks, but one shark leaps into the air to chomp the main characters on the rock…until the ice shark stops in mid-air.
Because a giant Snow Monster is holding it! We finally get a good look at the Snow Monster, he’s a big furry satyr covered in white fur as described above. The Snow Monster smacks the ice shark against a rock a bit then starts eating it. Ice Shark sushi, yum! Dinner is going well until a military moron accidentally shoots Snow Monster, which makes him mad. So now all the military idiots starts shooting at it instead of just throwing the moron forward and running away. We’ve seen this game before, the bullets do nothing but make Snow Monster madder.
The rescue team has a missile launcher, something you always need while on wilderness rescue missions. The guy who shoots it misses, and the missile causes an avalanche! This knocks everyone out, but they awaken…in a village? Of elves????
These people have big pointy ears! Also the imagery is fairly heavily borrowing from American Indian tribes. The group is Tim Wu, the comic relief guy, a jumpy military guy, and a few others. They are tied up and the elves are cutting their feet open to drain blood, but Time Wu cuts himself free and takes an elf hostage, at least until a kick-butt warrior chick takes him out. Before things get too intense, the lady survivor from the van Zhang Yongxian appears among the elves. Yes, we’ve jumped into Return of the Jedi. They elves are led by a lady priestess played by actress Li Ruoxi.
The rest of the military guys aren’t with the elves, they are still in the snow with the guy who recruited Tim Wu. They argue a bit before the guy reveals the rescue attempt is just a ruse for his real plan, which is getting DNA from the Snow Monster to do something or other. That seems to impress the military guys enough to not shoot him, despite the fact that it is now night time and they didn’t bring any tents.
The elves do a ritual for the Snow Monster. The comic relief guy has the hots for the lady warrior and also for the Priestess Li Ruoxi. Basically he’s a walking ball of hormones while Tim Wu and Zhang Yongxian awkwardly begin to rekindle their romance. The elves call for Snow Monster, who even joins in with the elves laughing at the comic relief guy as he falls backwards in fear. Snow Monster even allows Tim Wu to touch him. But then… MISSILE ATTACK!! A missile slams into Snow Monster and explodes! Another missile flies by and explodes near the people performing the ritual. The remaining military guys march in and declare their intention to get what they came for and kill any Snow Monster who tries to stop them. The elves are not too happy with this, but the military guys decide to machine gun down many of the native people, because why not commit genocide when you are also murdering the last member of a fantastic species?
The expedition organizer pulls out a huge huge gun and shoots the Snow Monster with a big electric dart that shocks the monster. The military grabs the elf priestess Li Ruoxi, the elf warrior lady, Tim Wu, Zhang Yongxian, and comic relief guy in a scheme to lure the Snow Monster out. The jumpy military guy is noticeably not a hostage, but he also was noticeably upset at the genocidal massacre and did not participate.
ICE SHARK ATTACK!!! Except the leader pulls out his big big gun again and shocks the snow, this kills all the ice sharks and we just see blood smears appear beneath the snow. Which was a pretty cool effect even though this made no sense why none of the humans were hurt with this powerful of a weapon. Ice shark attack alarm rescinded. But the villains do shoot Priestess Li Ruoxi, which angers Snow Monster enough he returns to be sad and then very very mad at the military guys. Snow Monster doesn’t really step on people but does stamp the ground near them and then they go flying off camera, presumably to their deaths. Before the Snow Monster eats a guy he picks up, he’s blasted by an air strike from three jets!
So wait, this biotech company is powerful enough that they either have the Chinese air force on call or own their own fighter jets? Also if the jets can fly into this place, why didn’t they fly in the rescue party in a big plane instead of going through the secret entrance full of deadly birds?
Let’s ignore that because Snow Monster punches one of the jets out of the sky in an amazing and hilarious scene. The other two jets hover and shoot Snow Monster with sound waves, keeping him from moving so the leader can shoot him with the big big gun again and zap him. This is an amazingly well planned way to incapacitate Snow Monster despite knowing almost nothing about him like a day ago. The evil leader guy takes a syringe gun out of a canister to use on Snow Monster before he’s interrupted. During the fighting here it seems that he is the brother of Zhang Yongxian’s character and both are children of the owner of the company, but he tries to kill her (she’s saved by Tim Wu) and then the heroes get another rocket launcher and shoot one of the jets out of the sky, the debris landing on the evil expedition organizer and smashing his leg.
Snow Monster is now free enough to smack the other jet out of the sky, then palm smashes the bad guy. Snow Monster lives, but the tribe of elves is decimated, only a few of them are left. There is a crazy scene where the heroes see all the tribes people who are dead waving goodbye to them as they leave, they wave back, then suddenly see the truth and there is only like 1/5th the tribe there and they are all sad. It’s a sobering reality check at the end of this scifi flick to hammer in the tragedy that is unchecked corporate greed.
During the credits the film continues, with Zhang Yongxian reuniting with her father in the biotech company’s control room, and then a scene of giant freaking snakes on a monitor! Wait a minute…..this movie is connected to a different Youku streaming service movie I saw a poster for…Snake 2 (大蛇2), which is a sequel to another giant snake movie, which means we have a cinematic universe going on here! Everything is connected, Pepe Silvia style! And, yes, I have access to some of these other films, which means they might show up here on TarsTarkas.NET, though I can’t imagine them holding up to the power that is Snow Monster!
Snow Monster was pretty fun, easy to follow while borrowing scenes from recognizable sources and still delivering an entertaining enough show to be worth your time. And where else will you see a giant satyr fight ice sharks? If you loved the SciFi Channel creature features than Snow Monster will be right up your alley!
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