When it comes to creature features, I’m a pretty easy fan to please. As long as you give me a convincing enough monster, unique and gruesome kills and at least one character who I at least halfway like, you have a satisfied customer here. When I saw Alien (1979) at an inappropriately young age, I was hooked and haven’t looked back since...
...It sparked an amalgamation of creativity, fear, imagination, excitement and of course, a sincere love of cinema. So, when putting my film critic hat on, (the hat that won’t come off) I have to get tough and not give things a pass just because it’s a preferred genre of horror. In the case of Jamaal Burden’s new film, Abominable, I didn’t have to get my hands too dirty. While far from perfect, this hike through the Yeti inhabited Himalayan mountains offered just enough creature carnage to quench my horror thirst.
Abominable wastes no time getting set up. We’re introduced to a diverse group of characters who are on an expedition to find a rare flower that could revive and stimulate cell growth. Lead by Dr. Helen (Amy Gordon), the team of specialists enter a tent where another researcher had set up camp to search for the flower. Something went wrong during his solo expedition and the team are investigating the incident. While exploring the harsh, frigid terrain, they learn that an unclassified beast is skulking about close behind, dead set on protecting its territory by primal means. Before long, some of the group members learn the Yeti-like monster isn’t their only threat. As secrets are revealed and loyalties are crossed, sinister intentions lurk beneath the snow.
One thing I really appreciated from the beginning, was how the cast of characters were unique and not stereotypes. Sometimes in films centered around a core group of survivors and especially creature features, there are cringeworthy portrayals of minorities and false or amplified cultural stereotypes. Those kinds of broad strokes can work for some films if you’re going for a goofy, self-aware horror comedy, but it’s a fragile thing to play with. Abominable, for the most part, plays it straight. It’s actually refreshing to see a horror film playing it straight, in a horror climate of horror comedies, cynical satires, meta humor and the, “it’s so over the top it’s funny!” kind of humor. Here, characters act and react in a pretty believable way and they’re likable too. That’s not to say the acting is always consistent, because it’s not. Aside from a few notable performances, line delivery ranges from serviceable to awkward, but luckily it never enters awful territory. Despite some awkward delivery, writer Joseph J.D. Ellis has penned a tight script with interesting characters. The standout is Amy Gordon, who plays her character with a charmingly enthusiastic energy. She is temperamental but also extremely driven and as a viewer, I was rooting for her. Ex-military special forces leader, Robert (Robert Berlin), also gives a notable performance. The frustrating interplay between Robert and Dr. Helen is fun to watch and is a good representation of the film’s effort to inject personality into their characters.
On a technical level, Abominable is solid most of the time. The gore and practical effects are a highlight of the film. Several death scenes end with faces being stripped to the bone and arms and legs are frequently separated from people. It all looks excellent and most of those scenes had me scratching my head, wondering how they pulled them off. Also, the makeup department should be applauded for their efforts in making our characters look convincingly cold. Blue and white were carefully applied around the lips and they seemed to have found perfect hues to create a realistic effect. However, some of the effects aren’t always used in the most effective ways. The Yeti creature is shown far too early and often. His design is mediocre, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s a man wearing a suit. His overall design just isn’t very creative, and his anatomy and movements are too familiar. Fortunately, closeups on the Yeti are actually very impressive, with stained teeth and convincing prosthetics. I wish they showed him much less and played more with sound, shadows and reactions, with full body shots being reserved for special moments. Cinematography is decent, if a bit too heavy on quick cuts and shaky camera movement. None of it was particularly distracting, though.
I don’t normally nitpick films (or I’m not accused of it yet) but I do have one beef that I found rather irritating. The final scene and end credits contain a piece of music that is technically original, but it borrows the same rhythmic pattern from 28 Days Later (2002). The song in that film is called “In the House in a Heartbeat” by composer John Murphey. It’s a great piece of cinematic music that builds to a powerful crescendo. It’s also a piece of music that is frequently mimicked, changing only a few notes to avoid musical plagiarism. It’s kind of like when you watch a parody of Star Wars (1977) and the spoof has to change the theme ever so slightly. Only in this case, it’s far more irritating and off-putting. As I stated, I don’t normally nitpick, but in this case, it was enough to leave a sour taste in my mouth, in an otherwise good movie.
Other than minor complaints and one specific nitpick, Abominable is an entertaining creature feature with a refreshing, serious tone. Such seriousness and a lack of humor would normally come across as joyless, but this film balances its tone by giving us really interesting characters. There isn’t anything revolutionary going on here, but as a creature feature, it checks most of the boxes for me. Abominable is a gory good time that I will absolutely be recommending to our readers and my horror pals.
Abominable is now available on Digital/DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth