(This Is An Enhanced Rewrite-Revision)
1975. Jaws hit theathers, proving to be a massive success and establishing the idea of the “summer blockbuster film” for Hollywood and the big cinema industry at large, launching the career of Steven Spielberg and going down in history as one of the best “b-movies” ever made, inadvertly spawning the absurdity of what amounts to a full fledged subgenre now, the “shark movie” one.
Why i’m even talking about sharks when tackling a movie about yetis/sasquatches?
Because Snowbeast it’s indeed one of the more clearer cases of “find and replace” scripts reworking, as John Stefano (who also penned the screenplay for Psycho) pretty much had to change very little from the Jaws’ script, just set it in winter and in the snowy mountains instead of summer at the beach, and swap the creature for the most famous cryptid of them all, bigfoot-yeti.
Not really blaming him, as this was just one of the many TV movies he was tasked to write for at the time, but it’s also quite undeniable how this movie can really be summed up a “Jaws, but about a yeti instead”, the characters serves the same exact roles here, just adapting details to the setting and throwing some filler like the romantic triangle between “Ski Quint”, his wife and the Matt Hooper stand-in character, made even more pointless since it doesn’t erupt into anything relevant, so it doesn’t even serve much as a distraction to this being “Yeti Jaws”, it’s pretty obvious.
While this “recycling script” effort isn’t exactly something to be lauded… it isn’t, but on the upside the effort to make this plays out exactly like Jaws isn’t completely hollow, even it’s cojoled by the smaller budget to make it work by not showing much the creature or relying entirely on the gore, but instead spend time on fleshing out the characters a little more, and “surprisingly” they are likeable and not just made detestable to make the yeti attacks more satisfying. It’s the “little” things.
Mind you, i’m saying this pretty aware of the limitations TV movies had (and still mostly have) at the time, and i’m not exactly praising it, the acting is decent but the characters – while more likeable than expected – are not interesting and are still obvious stands-in for better and more popular ones.
And the budget limitations also mean that you’re made aware the yeti is mutilating and literally ripping off the faces of its victims…by a character telling you that has happened, you’ll have to take his word for it, since the most you see of the creature is a hairy arm, and all the kills are implied by some blood on the grounds, freezeframes and people talking about gore not shown on screen.
You also get a lot of “FPS yeti” POV action, which include the quite stupid “impalement by ski” kills, but eventually you get to see the creature (after seeing parts of it and blurry shots), and the costume looks fairly decent for a TV movie like this, though it’s fairly cheesy when you get a closer look at it. I’ve seen far worse, like the ridiculous yeti costume in Shriek Of The Mutilated.
The yeti it’s also quite clever as to disarm the people carrying guns and hitting them with long range barrages of tree trunks. Shame he’s no match for the allmighty editing and ad break friendly cuts, that really make it even more obvious this is a TV movie.
Overall, it’s easy to see why Snowbeast became a small cult film, given it being penned by Jaws’ writer, John Stefano, here basically recycling the script for the Spielberg shark blockbuster with some minor alterations and details changed to fit the scenario, which combined with the budget limitations force it to play relatively more classy than expected as here they have to go for a similar “restrained” approach to the creature (and graphic content overall) due to the limited budget.
It’s still pretty obviously a Jaws rip-off through, with characters that are clearly meant to be Quint, Hooper and so on, but decent acting and the limitations (both monetary and by its TV movie nature) in place help it make it enjoyable shlock despite barely any gore, particularly lurid content or it being anything really special, but still enjoyable.
Kinda surprised it never received a “in name only sequel” like some of the other Jaws rip-offs, for example Grizzly and its infamous sequel… which eventually did came out.