Early Frost 1981 Review
Early Frost 1981
Directed by: Unkown
Starring: Joanne Samuel, David Franklin, Guy Doleman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
There are a few slasher sites on the web, so what I try to do here for you guys and gals is give you some of the rarer titles that are floating about alongside the most commonly known. Recently in my review of Si Yiu, I promised you some flicks from 1981 that you may not yet have come across. After i posted the uber-obscure The Phantom Killer, here my friends is yet another. Early Frost is an Ozploitation number from the boom year and thus far, it has not been reviewed on any other blog/website. It is, in fact, so unknown that I have searched everywhere and tracked down only minimal information on its development. No wonder that it has been so blatantly overlooked. (Another a SLASH above exclusive. I do accept cheques lol)
If regional filmmaking was a term that applied globally, then Early Frost is as regional as a phone code. It was shot in Blacktown, Australia, and the only snippets of knowledge that I could gather were that many people from that area have heard about it or in effect, know someone who was involved with its production. The reasons as to why it hasn’t been reviewed or given the time of day are indeed a mystery, because it was picked up by Medusa Communications ltd and they were a fairly large VHS distributor back in the day. It just seems to be the one that got away.
It boasts a 7.3 rating on the IMDB. 7.3! That’s only .6 decimals away from Halloween. I should also inform you that it is listed there and on other sites that reuse the IMDB’s data as a ‘thriller’. Well that’s only half-true. I picked it up moons ago at a car boot sale not expecting a slasher, but trust me, it is 100% a hopeful stab at making Australia’s Dressed to Kill. Personally I quite like Aussie horror and especially their experiments within the slasher sub-genre. In only a few attempts, they have covered everything possible from a classy Carpenter-lite suspense treat (Coda) to a campy bucket of stale fondue (Houseboat Horror). Let’s see where Early Frost sits amongst those gateposts…
A private detective discovers a link in some recent fatal accidents that hint at the possibility that they were in fact murders. Along with a local boy who keeps news clippings on such events, the pair begins to investigate the possibility that there is an intelligent serial killer on the lose…
Cinema is a truly amazing form of media because it has the ability to seriously meddle with your emotions. Some films can make you laugh, some can make you cry. Some can be so suspenseful that they lead you to chew your nails until they’re almost down to the skin. I was hoping to post a review of Early Frost much earlier (pun intended), but what I kept getting when watching the flick was the uncontrollable urge to go to sleep. I mean, like seriously. After a record 14 cups of coffee in twelve hours, I have finally got to see it all the way through – yay! It’s a slasher that’s far more ‘er’ than it is ‘slash’, because we are not treated to any rubber masked psychopaths that stalk bra-less bimbos in boob-tubes. We do however get bundles of killer-cam shots from our unseen nut job with audible breathing difficulty, so the Halloween influences are present and correct. It’s a character driven story, with a huge emphasis on the mystery, but without a traditional final boy or girl to drive the story. Instead it flows more like a study on a family – a mother and her two sons – and their dark secrets.
The single parent is a clichéd ‘bad movie mum’ without one redeeming feature. She’s a horrible bitch to watch on the screen and she thinks more about getting drunk and laid than she does looking after her two boys. She was also inadvertently responsible for the death of their father, which has left an uneasy chemistry in the house. These scenes of story development are competently written, well staged, comfortable to watch and the cast do a fairly good job with what they were given. Most of them were signed from TV shows that were popular at the time, including Aussie screen legend, Guy Doleman. Along for the ride also was Joanne Samuel, who played Mel Gibson’s wife in Mad Max and the tortured protagonist in Alison’s Birthday.
The idea of the story is really good, because the unseen killer is intelligent in the way that he makes each murder look like an accident. This leads to a few interesting slaughter scenes, which I won’t list here so as not to ruin them. It was written by Terry O’Connor who had his name placed above the title as would a director, but funnily enough, it wasn’t him in the hot seat. This is the most interesting thing about Early Frost, because no one is sure who actually did manage the shoot. It remains the only Australian film without a director’s credit; and from the little that I have learned, the guy who worked it for the most part walked off the set halfway through. In the end, producers David Hanney and Geoff Brown took control, but whether they decided to finish it between them or hire someone else is something that has never been stated. This must have had an effect on the rest of the crew and maybe it somewhat explains the movie’s low level status. On a sombre note, two of the leading players were themselves involved in fatal accidents within five years of the film’s release. Local papers called it ‘The Jinx of Early Frost’, although I prefer not to look at things that way. Rest in Piece to Jon Blake and Daniel Cumerford.
For a movie that wants you to be engrossed in its puzzle, it delivers a really poor conclusion. I mean, it was easy to figure out, but very hard to believe. (I mean how did he know that stuff?) Then the final image throws a complete curveball on us that was surely meant to be quite smart, but it’s just confusing and annoying.
Despite a couple of neat attempts at building suspense, Early Frost is too much of an oddball for its own good. It has no nudity, minimal gore, a bewildering spine to its synopsis and most importantly, a lack of momentum. A superb idea has been hindered no doubt by what was going on behind the scenes. Not really worthy of your effort in searching out, because it’s a bit of a misfire. Oh and by the way, what the hell was the reason behind the title?