On the Rocks – Absolute Zero Reviewed

24 Aug

A drink or two would have definitely helped…

Keeping up with the latest SyFy b-movies has been a little harder than I imagined since I cut the cable back in April, but buried in Netflix one can still find a few “gems”. And since it’s the middle of what’s been a fairly hot summer, this week’s review is for the 2006 ice disaster movie Absolute Zero, starring Jeff Fahey as a scientist with out-of-control eyebrows who discovers that the next ice age is just around the corner. And it’s going to be very, very cold.

Characters in disaster films typically fall into two camps. They can be active, trying to save the day (and usually succeeding) by implementing a last minute theory they invariably pull out of their ass. Or they can be passive, running from explosion to explosion and just trying to make it to the end. Active characters tend to make the plot more exciting, if generally more absurd. Passive ones allow for more “realistic” disasters to unfold, but they generally don’t contribute much beyond tension – unless they’re well written, which rarely happens with a movie like this.

Absolute Zero has the absurd premise of an active movie with characters that mainly react to events around them. It tries to be both kinds of disaster film, with middling results.

Spoilers ahead, though I doubt it’ll ruin things for you to know them.

David (Jeff Fahey) is a Miami climatologist with what can only be described as the world’s most fake-looking natural hair and a demeanor that would be right at home with the local CSI department. When the firm he works for sends him to Antarctica, he uncovers ancient cave paintings. Sadly, there are no animated mammoths voiced by Ray Romano on the wall – only stick figures depicting doom from an eclipse. Back in Miami, he calls on an old scientist friend, and together – with a couple of comic-relief interns – they deduce from some scraped paint chips that the ice age was caused by quickly flipped magnetic poles. To make matters worse, the same thing is happening right now. Throughout the film he utters “Science is never wrong,” so the validity of their theory is never in question.

Did I mention that this magnetic event drops the temperature to absolute zero? Or that the old friend he enlists to help him married his ex-lover ten years earlier without him knowing? Or that his friend and ex-lover’s kid has a distractingly large head? It’s all true, ratcheting up the absurdity factor even further.

From that point on, it’s a race to survive – rushing from complication to complication to get back to his lab, which conveniently is the only thing around that can withstand absolute zero(tm).

The plot is standard fare. It does manage to keep things from bogging down much, but too often veers toward the most convenient path. Characters need to find shelter or they’ll die? Make David’s lab cold-proofed. Odd tension between David, his friend and his ex – the friend’s wife? Just kill off the obstacle to getting David his love back.

The effects are a mixed bag – they start off incredibly bad (horrendous green screen, white blankets crumpled up to look like snow drifts, snow made of Captain Crunch) and get better as the movie goes on. I think they did the effects sequentially and got more practiced – or they worked backwards and ran out of cash. Either way, it’s odd.

The acting is ok, though it consists mostly of yelling (“Run! Come on!” – that sort of thing). To be honest, the lead’s eyebrows and the kid’s head (seriously, it was larger than some of the adults) distracted me to the point I’m not entirely sure what was said in every scene. Reactions weren’t terribly realistic (the wife and child were surprisingly meh about their husband/father dying), but I chalk that up to bad writing and directing.

Overall, Absolute Zero is a decent effort that falls short due to spotty effects and characters that passively react rather than take initiative.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to drink…

6 ice cubes out of 10

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One Response to “On the Rocks – Absolute Zero Reviewed”

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  1. The un-science of weather disaster movies | Two Geeks, One Blog - August 20, 2014

    […] listed include: Absolute Zero (check out Thomas’ review here), The Day After Tomorrow, Twister, Sharknado, and Into the […]

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