Jack A. Sunseri
Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 28 October 2008
Source Coyote Home Video VHS
Categories 31 Days of Horror V
Somewhere in Kansas City, scientists play God with cryonics and pilfer from their clients’ wallets—rather than preserving bodies for future resuscitation, they’re swiping organs for cash on the black market, leaving the dead… heartless. With its sober opening credits questioning if this is indeed Satan’s work, The Chilling is exactly the kind of horror film I’d hoped for when this feature commenced; it required two viewings to absorb the ludicrous plot, the stilted performances, and Ed Wood-inspired special effects.
For anyone unfamiliar with the fantastical process of cryopreservation, bodies are preserved at a low temperature after death in the hopes that future medical breakthroughs will enable their revival. Urban legend has it that Walt Disney is “on ice,” a myth The Chilling gleefully acknowledges (he’s in the chamber right next to Charlie Chaplin, of course) in an opening pan across several cryogenic chambers. Universal Cryogenics Inc. (A Life Extension Company) houses these celebrities and is stealing thousands of dollars from its affluent clients, including poor Mr. Davenport, whose wife is cryonized at the beginning of the movie. This is essentially exposition, before we’re jettisoned - insert title - SIX MONTHS LATER – HALLOWEEN MORNING. Somehow we’ve moved from the lab to a crummy motel, where none other than Davenport Jr. has steamy shower sex with his girlfriend before heading off to a bank job. The heist is botched, Davenport’s son is shot and we’re back at Universal Cryogenics hours before the Halloween horror begins.
Before delving into the nature of these events, it must be mentioned that horror mistress Linda Blair receives top billing in The Chilling , looking as cherub-faced as she did when she played a demonically possessed 12-year-old. As Mary Hampton, Universal Cryogenics executive, Blair not only has to deal with her boss Dr. Miller’s organ-snatching, but a jealous alcoholic boyfriend who may have the best line in the entire movie (“My girlfriend leaves me on Halloween… bitch.”). With their mutually dysfunctional home lives, Davenport and Mary bond over a cup of coffee and are soon fleeing side by side from the creatures - deemed “cryonoids” - running amuck in the cryogenic lab.
Much of The Chilling is pleasingly similar to the movies of Dick Maas; sound effects are used to punctuate for laughs, not shock. Particularly noticeable is the sound of the needle inserted into Mrs. Davenport’s corpse, as her fluids are drained—the resulting slurp is no more squeam/giggle-inducing than someone messily drinking soup. Green goo and severed limbs abound in the movie’s second half, after the cryonoids come back to life, thanks to a handy lighting storm.
Of course, a hero is necessary for this onslaught of terror - neither Davenport nor Mary is an apt leader - so grizzly-bearded security guard Vince fits the bill. Facing the cryonoids head-on, Vince manages to keep his head on as he creates weapons out of lab and warehouse equipment. The finale is a scenario ripped from Ridley Scott’s Alien, only cheaper, with swinging tubes and pipes obscuring views of the creatures as they attack. Even Vince manages to pull a Ripley, using a forklift to attack the relentless parade of zombie-like cryonoids.
In their silver tinfoil suits, the cryonoids are the best feature of The Chilling; their pile-up on Mary’s car is something to behold, clawing and prying at the windows, as is the final shot, the wink at the audience. There’s a definite difference between the boring bad horror film, which we’ve all slogged through, and this far more enjoyable kind of camp, which has not only self-awareness but also appreciation for its own silliness. I suppose you could argue that it may be chance or the passage of time that pushes this kind of C-horror above the rest. However, any cheesy horror flick that ends with an epilogue (and punchy music) relating the fate of its characters deserves a nod of respect.
Jack A. Sunseri
Coyote Home Video
Linda Blair, Dan Haggarty
They Came, They Thawed, They Conquered
The Dead Don’t Die1975
The Brides Wore Blood1972
Girl in Room 2A1973
Nude for Satan1974
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare1987
Brides of the Beast1968
Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye1973
The Curse of Bigfoot1976
Dark Night of the Scarecrow1981
Moon in Scorpio1987
The Legend of Hell House1973
Grave of the Vampire1974
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake1975
Attack of the Beast Creatures1985
Humanoids from the Deep1980