Australia’s foray into the budget disaster movie genre is an interesting take on extreme weather. Whilst it has some good ideas and some strong characters and set up, the lack of budget and some really lazy padding make for a frustrating and unsatisfying delivery.
The disasters faced
“Ourselves” apparently as the lead shouts and bellows to anyone who listens, a dry ice machine gone mad, power cuts, the pronunciation of “data” and people who can’t run fast enough getting more than a little chilly.
Arctic Blast kicks off a narrative crawl explaining how the atmosphere works. Its campy documentarian approach sets the tone for wildly random silliness whilst trying to be serious throughout. Jack works at a weather organisation in Hobart, Tasmania. Alongside far too flirty diabetic colleague Zoe, he will spend a lot of the movie staring at data on a screen. He does it so much its driven his wife Emma and daughter Naomi away and they are on the brink of divorce. Of course, they are one apocalypse away from getting their marriage back on track again.
When fellow scientist Alex is killed with his ship crew, it starts a spiral of events that lead Jack and co to work out there has been a tear in the ozone, bringing down frozen air to the surface and freezing everything it touches. The cold front is approaching Australia and its effects will be felt worldwide as it begins to tear new holes in the ozone layer.
Jack turns to his American bosses for support. Here, Walter leads a military approach to solving the issue, choosing to cut Jack out proceedings. His second in command/PA (just what is she?) Tammy has a much more holistic view and they’ll be discussing that whilst looking at their screens for data.
As the cold front hits, our cast is spread across different places. Jack has gone to save Naomi who has gone to the beach with her friends Franny and Jarrod. Emma has gone to save her parents Harold and Margaret. They will spend the entire time watching the TV and listening to the radio. Zoe will be at the lab looking at data whilst slipping into a diabetic coma. Walter and Tammy will be ordering data whilst costing lives.
Who’ll be there at the end and how will they stop the cold front killing everyone and causing irreversible damage?
Why is it worth watching?
Arctic Blast has its heart in the right place. It has a cast, trapped in different places, all trying to survive in a discount Day After Tomorrow. You just need to be aware that the ambition is bigger than the budget. The sets have a TV sheen to them and the acting varies from perfectly competent to wooden and laughable. This makes Arctic Blast fit perfectly into the campy b-movie category and there is plenty of that fun to be had.
You’ll be enjoying everyone trying to react to data on the screen for far too long though. I find it a lazy cop-out to continuously have groups of people stare dramatically at a screen and Arctic Blast relies on this trope a few times too many. The last 25 minutes is crammed full of it because the main threat is now passed. It is a shame as it makes the movie lopsided.
There are some really good ideas here though. Seeing the ice fog hit various places were very reminiscent of 9/11 visually (and The Mist) even when the effects are poor. There is one scene in the diner which works fantastically as the ice creeps in and stops a CD player that slows and skips. For each of these though, there are comedic stop and scream moments and icy hands slowly sliding down the wall. The problem is that the movie decides what the ice fog can and can’t do from scene to scene and the science itself is wrong to begin with. I’m happy to go with something for the fun of it but what is perfectly fine in one scene suddenly kills someone the next. It’s frustrating but laughable.
Essentially you are watching dry ice attack the world and the CGI is dire. This makes the somewhat limited death sequences laugh out loud funny. The ice changes look and feel from scene to scene and sometimes it is just a steamed-up window. Frozen people just turn a shade of blue. Also, spot how the tech company logo on the front of the building is just boarded over the top of an existing one.
Thankfully most of the cast is likeable. Jack is flawed but decent. Emma can cry on demand – something many of these movies lack. Naomi is your typical moody teenager but still has a brain. Zoe is a bit too flirty with Jack but stays permanently in the friend zone. She is also a trooper. The only idiot is Harold the dad. Even Walter, whilst portrayed initially as a potential baddie type actually isn’t. Even though he does take some missteps, he redeems himself thanks to Tammy, who should be the CEO of that company really! Everyone is inoffensive and that makes the movie much easier to enjoy.
‘When I come back we’ll open that bottle of whiskey I’ve saved’
Alex (Opening Scene. He immediately dies in his next scene)
Three memorable moments
- The section in the diner as the ice fog creeps in
- Franny on the beach
- The extra in the supermarket getting SO angry at the checkout during the panic buying section.
The obligatory weird moment
The whole scientific thing reeks of a lack of substance but I’ll go with the way how some people die instantly before even being enveloped in the fog and yet others can fend off this deadly attack by popping on a coat and sitting on the sofa in front of a small fire. The opening death is also a “did that just happen?” moment! Delightfully we enjoy a bit of a goof here at ILDM. When our diabetic Zoe takes a test for herself, the readout actually shows she needs sugar, not insulin – so her whole quest for medical attention is actually for the wrong thing entirely. Whoops.
The drinking game
Arctic Blast works best with shot glasses. One for every time someone says “data” (Darrrtarrrr actually but nevermind). One for every time you get confused before all the blonde females in the cast. There are three of them and at the beginning of the movie and I was very confused as to who was who on the first watch.
Arctic Blast is unimaginative and poorly conceived and in the days where both the extremely good and extremely bad market are well catered for, this is for genre purists only. Yes, it is funny in places. Yes, there is no logic to any of it but its been done better (Day After Tomorrow) and worse (2012 Ice Age) elsewhere. Campy b-movie lovers only.
Rating: 2 / 5 Poor
If you liked Arctic Blast then you may like…
- The Day After Tomorrow – similar film, Hollywood budget
- 2012 Ice Age – the one where Eygpt freezes over
- On the Beach – Australia’s nuclear film is paralleled here
*This review was updated on 16/11/19 to follow the new review format.