- Limited Release
- Director: Paul Shapiro
- Written by: Tim Redman
- Running Time: 110 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: G - General Audiences
- Cast: David Hasselhoff, Michael Gross, Deanna Milligan, Myles Ferguson, Don S. Davis, George Josef, Ben Cardinal
Even with its pedestrian editing and Hasselhoff's performance, which at times borders on kitschy, "Avalanche" remains an occasionally thrilling, occasionally enjoyable tv-movie of the week. There is every effort given to melding the claustrophobic-uneasiness of being buried alive with that panicky edginess of having a gun shoved into your face and being told to dig. I dug that. Unlike other films of this genre, the excavation here is not of a shallow grave for which the diggee will eventually fill, rather, these folks are digging for freedom - a chance to live another day. Well, that is until they, by chance, rake up a half frozen David Hasselhoff, who has burrowed up to the door. That's when the things get good. Well, maybe not good, but okay. Wait, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here so I shall digress.
Survival replacing some good old family bonding, that's the reality of the situation that confronts the Kemp clan; Brian Kemp (Michael Gross) and his two kids Max (Myles Ferguson) and Deidre (Deanna Milligan), when a freak avalanche buries their mountain-side cabin in thirty feet of snow. Brian might not be a great dad but he's a sharp guy who remains calm even in the face of himself (and his kin) freezing to death in their fair-sized chalet tomb - a tomb that promises to cave in on them at any second. Brian reaches the highest point of the cabin and then, with a small shovel and a pale, and his kids helping, he begins to slowly burrow his way to surface. He has no idea how far away that surface is but he isn't about to stop until his kids are free. Yup, it looks bad for the Kemp clan, but they haven't seen anything yet.
Downstairs, Deidre has the misfortune of finding a semi-cryogenized David Hasselhoff mere inches from their front downstairs window. He's stiff as a board, as usual. Hasselhoff's typically wooden acting style aside, this is one instance where the Hoff is actually stiff -- frozen up harder than concrete. Thankfully, Brian is on the case, working to warm up the human ice cube with a seemingly endless supply of blankets. Too bad he couldn't use those same blankets to construct some make-shift gloves for those frost-bitten fingers of his. Ah, what can you do? It isn't long before the Hoff is sufficiently thawed out and we're getting to the film's central narrative thrust. As it turns out Hasselhoff is actually Duncan Snyder, a none-too-bright high school drop-out, jewel thief and finely-tuned sociopath, whose most recent spate of recklessness has most-likely resulted in the avalanche that he suddenly finds himself caught up in. As Austin Powers would say, Who shoots a pilot of a plane, which is then bound to crash into a mountain range prone to avalanches, especially when your escape plan involves parachuting into said mountain range? Really, who does that? Well, apparently David Hasselhoff... er... Duncan Snyder does.
Right away Duncan gets to work trying to mind-fuck... er... stage-manage the Kemps and, early on, it kinda works. Sadly, as with everything else, he's not very good at it. This is best evidenced by his romantic overtures towards Deidre, who is only, just barely, out of her teens. "Can I call you Dee?" he wonders. Ugh! His attempts at make-cute with Deidre only work to remind us of what a creep he is. Brian is on to Duncan pretty quickly, seeing him for what he is -- a shrewd, sleazy, manipulative conman. Even so, he, at Duncan's suggestion, agrees to dig down in the basement, against his better judgement -- maybe, I'm sensing, to keep his strange and unpredictable guest at bay. As Duncan's real reasons for wanting to dig in the basement becomes clear, a monumental cat and mouse power struggle soon begins to take shape as delinquent dad, Brian, faces off against Duncan, a guy with some serious daddy issues of his own. Yeah, yeah. Given the fact that this is a tv movie, the outcome of this Tom n' Jerry struggle is somewhat predictable. On the other hand, the genre has been known to surprise on occasion, so I won't give anything away.
Far from great, the film manages to coax some good stuff out of its claustrophobic setting, thanks to some inspired cinematography from Montreal-born Alar Kivilo, a guy with more than thirty credits to his name. Also, there's something inherently chilling about the idea of being stuck inside a place, unable to get out, with dwindling food supplies and the knowledge that at any second, you could freeze to death. No matter how many blankets you wrap yourself in, the threat is still there and there's nothing at all you can do about it. Compound this threat with the appearance of a lunatic with a gun, and a steely-eyed dad willing to risk it all for his progeny, and you got yourself some good old claustra-noid mano-o-mano cinematic goodness.
The often understated Michael Gross is a fine, accomplished actor who sizes up nicely against the interminable force of hyper-mediocrity known as the Hoff. Gross is probably best known as the patriarch of the Keaton clan on tv's "Family Ties". For me, it's his turn as a serial killer William "Bill" Russell Matix in the film "In the Line of Duty: The F.B.I. Murders" that has stayed with me the most. Along with David Soul, who played his side-kick and partner in mayhem, Michael "Mike" Lee Platt; their performance in that film, I'm convinced, equal two of the scariest serial killers ever put to celluloid. I had nightmares about it, for realz. Facing off against Hasselhoff in a constantly shifting game of psychological one-upmanship, while simultaneously trying to save his family, and mend fences with a daughter he barely knows, but would die for; it's something only a truly talented actor could undertake. Not only does he pull it off, but we're rooting for him all the way. Vancouver-born Deanna Milligan (2004's "A Beachcombers Christmas") is another understated actress, who does quite well articulating the growing loss of control the whole family feels under Hasselhoff's piercing and constantly darting eyes and the barrel of his gun. The animosity she feels towards her father and her often-voiced faux appeals to escape to college and rid herself of the tribulations of reconnecting with a father she deep down longs to re-connect with but is too afraid to voice aloud, it all speaks to a character with alot going on inside. She projects ice, but inside, she's in emotional meltdown. Milligan is talented enough to make it work.
David Hasselhoff (1998's "W.B. Blue and The Bean"), the film's titular star, is at his unhinged best playing psycho Duncan. With snake-like charm and a shifty-eyed gaze, and hobbling around on a bad leg (sometimes), he pushes the audience to both root for him and loathe him, at the same time. He's a creep but for some reason, we kinda like him. He also has the Wiley Coyote-like ability to take a savage beating only to rise reconds later, as if nothing happened. In one scene, he is bound up in electrical tape, only to worm his way over to perfectly placed piece of glass and free himself -- all as the family stands mere inches away from him. Nice. Interestingly, the Hoff veers dramatic playing opposite child-actor Myles Ferguson, and actually manages to provide some modest depth to his loony character.
Fans of thrillers will find something to enjoy. Fans of the Hoff will also find much to love about this film, as it gives him plenty of screen time to play around in. It's practically an avalanche of Hoff.
Avalanche @ imdb.com