The suicide attempt of Alison leads her to an alternate world where she is given a mission by an angel of sorts. She has to kill a former wizard's evil apprentice known as "The Presence", and disguises herself as one of his victims to get closer to him.
The first film by Eric Stanze left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, but I knew his work would get better. It was a debut film, and his films are popular in this community, it seems. "Ice From the Sun" is a movie that I have been wanting to see for the longest time, even longer than I have been interested in "Scrapbook" (which is next on my Eric Stanze marathon). Why? I guess I'm just a fan of experimental and surreal films, more than torture-extremities. It was with excitement I put "Ice From the Sun" into the DVD player this Tuesday morning.
It's a trippy movie that tells the story of another dimension. Alison attempts to commit suicide and ends up being visited by an angel, and this angel tells her to destroy a former wizard's apprentice, now known as "The Presence". This apprentice takes his victims into his world and brutally kills them. We follow a gang of friends who have all entered this world and Alison hides among them to be able to face The Presence.
The story is extremely ambitious and quite a lot of work is needed to make it work in such a low-budget experimental film as this one. Sadly, Eric Stanze's writing is far from sharp enough. This movie ends up being a complete pseudo-intellectual and attempted biblical mess of a film. It's a hard story to sell and this movie fails completely at doing so, especially when they go too far into it (much like Stanze did in "Savage Harvest"). He has all the ambition that is needed but he seems to have no clue at all as how to make it work. This movie is a 2 hour waste of time, and the story is just a small part of what makes it that.
Let's go into the style - something I had high expectations for. It's shot on Super-8 so the original look of the film is great, that's a freebie when working with Super-8 film. But then there is the fact that the editing is bullshit. It's ridiculous! Shitty 90's garage band music, inappropriate filter-changes, annoying cuts, scenes that never know when to stop and then we have the 2 hour runtime. It doesn't work! By the 40 minute mark I had to go to IMDb.com to see how long the movie was (the cover of the Njutafilms collection only states the runtime of everything combined) and noticed it said 120 minutes. I was about to turn it off, to be honest! I made it through just so that I could review it for this god damn website I run.
"Ice From the Sun" could be saved if Eric Stanze understood that sometimes you have to kill your darlings. You really do. Sadly, I think maybe 90-100 minutes of this film are his darlings. Yes, as a short film I could see me liking, or even praising, this movie. There are a few shots that are great where the ideas work, and I'm not afraid to admit that. Without a doubt, there is something between all the bullshit. They just didn't know where to stop so the good scenes are forgotten about in all of the other garbage that we have to push through. In the last 30 minutes I was walking around the room while watching it because I was just so bored with it.
Just like in "Savage Harvest", the effects aren't bad. It's clear that Stanze is an ambitious filmmaker overall. I would say that effect-wise, you'll have more fun with "Savage Harvest", but this one lingers towards the more brutal. One scene we have a girl covered in wounds (she has been dragged along after a car) and a guy throws salt on her. A pretty brutal scene, right? It is, but it's not pulled off well since it almost feels Troma-esque when you see him carry a big bag with "SALT" written on it. I absolutely think it's important for the audience to know what is being thrown on her in the scene, but maybe spelling it out on the bag was on the verge of silly. Maybe it was just me going insane by how much I hated the movie by this point. Let's not forget the big eye-monster - what the fuck?! I mean, it looks okay if it's used carefully but it just comes off as a Halloween costume and a girl beating it with a piece of wood until she kills it and gets covered in goo.
Some people have been complaining about the acting but I don't really have much to say here. I know not to expect great acting in films like these, and I don't think they did too terrible. Or maybe it was just the lesser of many evils (editing, music, etc was far more annoying than acting) so I didn't notice it. In so many ways does this movie come off a compilation tape of crappy 90's garage band music videos. Even the god damn intro! When the most interesting point in a film is the few shots of naked girls, and you're not watching a porno, then you know that you are watching a crappy movie. Not even the blood/gore scenes were of worth in this junk.
"Ice From the Sun" is an ambitious attempt at making an intellectual semi-biblical experimental horror movie, but sadly the team behind it have no idea what they are doing. I doubt they cut anything out of the movie - not even re-shoots or different angles of the same scenes (you have no idea how often they cut to the same thing). I could've loved this movie if they made it a 20-30 minute short film with just the best stuff. It'd be a fine little bizarre art film since there are some shots that actually work - not to mention that Super-8 footage overall looks good. No, instead I think this is a movie far worse than stuff like "TapeWorm", which I think shares a lot with this one. But "TapeWorm" had a sort of charm to it that made the silliness work to some extent. I really feel I wasted my time with "Ice From the Sun" and while I wouldn't call it the worst film I have seen (or even the worst experimental film) because there are points that work, it's still a bottom-scraper in so many ways. I hated this movie and at times I even questioned my own filmmaking. Seeing such a bad movie made me feel dirty for making experimental films myself! Yes, it's ambitious, but that leads you nowhere when you use the ambition on the wrong things. I know I sound harsh, but I have to be honest. I've been looking forward to this movie for years, and there hasn't been any hype (haven't read reviews prior to watching it) to "ruin" anything for me, and I get this boring piece of junk. I'm glad I waited until it was handed to me instead of actually buying it like I did with "Scrapbook". And "Scrapbook" is the next film for me to watch! Two down, both bad, but I still think "Scrapbook" could turn out well. Since I have to watch a few more of his films I might as well hope for the best.