I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Gas!
Did you ever put in a movie expecting to see one thing only to have the movie be something else entirely? Have I got the title for you!
Back in 2010, Syfy (I think) put out a movie called Ice Quake. The descriptions vary. If you go by a user on IMDB’s description, it’s a world in peril type movie that seems to be high drama and possibly lots of action. Netflix (for once) actually got the description much better, but I ignored them because they are usually off-base. Oops.
Here’s what it’s about. It’s about many beautiful panoramic shots of ice-covered mountains. It’s about ill-placed suspense music. It’s about our environment. It’s also about Christmas and one family’s ill-fated sojourn to find the perfect tree. Let’s set the stage:
Opening shot: snowy mountains and our title. The shots are all soaring panoramas but the music is all chase scene. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, we see Santa on a snowmobile. Wait, that’s not Santa! That’s a scientist! He meets up with some other science guy as they study the snow on whatever glacier they are on.
Santa and pal are looking at temperature readings in the ice. Suddenly, the ice splits and our scientists are on 2 sides of a deep ravine. Non Santa makes a leap from one side to the other. As he does, the gases from the ravine flash-freeze him. Santa hops on his snowmobile and zooms down the mountain in search of safety. Now is when the chase scene music should be playing—and it is. Oh, but Santa wasn’t fast enough. A geyser erupts in his path, wiping him clean off that mountain.
And that’s where out story begins. Ice Quake takes place in the mountains near a small, nameless town in Alaska. Wherever they are, there is an Army Corps. of Engineers base nearby as well as National Geologic Survey type lab. The movie focuses on a guy named Michael (played by Brenden Fehr who I remember as Booth’s brother on Bones) who works with the Army and that’s all I know about his job. Michael is trying to take Christmas Eve off and enjoy a nice day with his family, but he’s a bit of a workaholic.
He’s not the only one who wants to be somewhere else. His daughter, Tia, is addicted to her phone and wants to spend the day with a friend. His son, Shane, is one of those adorable, perfect kids. He’s been studying great explorers and is working on a survival kit. Brenden’s wife, Emily, is the one making everyone stay home and be a family. She’s also, in my opinion, a little stupid.
Case in point: An earthquake interrupts the family’s boring breakfast. It’s mild, but unnerving. Shane, being an adorable movie kid, announces “wow, an earthquake!” Emily seems very concerned since it’s the second one in two days. Michael suggests calling in to the base so he can follow-up. And that’s when Emily reminds him that he’s on vacation. So…I’m thinking a rare earthquake might be more important than a vacation day, but whatever, Emily.
So in the spirit of ignoring strange weather and natural disasters, Michael announces that he’s going to go in search of the perfect Christmas tree—get this—on government land. I really thought you couldn’t hunt, fish or poach trees in Uncle Sam’s yard. Do I have this wrong?
Despite the nagging from the wifey, Michael calls in to the base to get a weather report. On the other end of the phone line is the wonderful Victor Garber. He’s playing Colonel Bill Hughes. I love Victor Garber. I wonder what favor he owed someone for this movie.
So anyways, everyone’s wondering about the strange earthquakes, but no one seems to be too concerned about them. Michael and family (and the family dog) head up the mountain and go off in search for a tree.
At this point in the movie, I’m about bored to tears. I was expecting to see some super disaster film set up and what I’m getting is a family hiking through the snow discussing Christmas and gifts and happiness and whatnot. This is starting to feel like a Hallmark Movie. I half expect the folks from those Good Witch films to wander through the town.
So when the next quake hit, I’m happy to say that I was so very pleased. It’s tremor time! The ground rumbles, the snow and ice on top of the mountain splits and lengthy crevasses form. The family runs down the trail in hopes to evade geysers and giant land cracks. They eventually seek refuge in a small outpost. I have no idea how that helps, but whatever.
Michael calls down to the base. He explains that’s it’s not just quakes but geysers too. Okay, doesn’t that fiddle with the title of this movie? Shouldn’t it have been Ice Geysers? Maybe Ice Gas! Hmmm… There is no time to ponder that. We’ve got an AVALANCHE!!!!!!!! The family scurries out of the outpost and wisely gets to the side of the avalanche which tumbles down the mountain and over everyone’s cars. Can’t go home that way now!
Then if that’s not enough, another crevasse forms conveniently down the middle of the family. Michael and wife are on one side, and the kids on the other. Oh, and the dog is missing. So now in order to regroup, each duo will have to hike up the mountain to meet near the top where it looks like it’s still stable. Good luck, Wilderness Family!
At the Army base, the Colonel spends much of his time looking at computer screens, while pacing back and forth shouting “what could it be?” He’s got an unfortunate assistant whose sole job is to stare at a screen that show when the tremors are occurring. Nice job. There’s also a scientist everyone refers to as “Methane Man.” As school nicknames go, that’s one I wouldn’t want. Dr. Methane theorizes that it was a giant blast of methane gas that killed the dinosaurs. He thinks that underground methane is what could be causing the quakes and geysers now, and that it could possibly wipe out all life on the planet. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
So anyways, if we didn’t need enough challenges, there’s a huge storm moving in. The Colonel sets up a rescue mission to find Michael and family. Super. Let’s recap the challenges, shall we?
- Crazy earthquakes and ice geysers are trying to kill everyone and no one knows how to prevent them.
- A storm is approaching.
- The family is separated and must travel far to regroup.
- The dog is missing.
- We still haven’t found a Christmas tree.
I’m not going any further plot-wise. There’s actually a whole lot more to come in the movie, but that’s up for you to enjoy or suffer through. I won’t spoil it. I will say, however, that I really thought I was sitting down to an end of the world action type movie, and instead I got a Hallmark flick that was heavy on the natural disasters. Not entirely my cup of tea.
First of all, and this is a petty complaint, but I could not stand Emily. There was zero chemistry between Michael and Emily. She kept asking stupid questions. Why did he marry her? I know the movie isn’t a romance, but it’s really hard to believe these two have had a couple of kids together when they act like strangers around each other. Also, except for one action on her part (which does turn out to be important) she spends the other 99% of the movie being completely useless.
Also, Ice Quake is a teaching movie. While watching, I learned that one should always have an emergency kit strapped to their back at all times. Did you know that if you fill an empty water bottle with snow, and then put the bottle in your coat next to your body, the snow will melt? Yeah, me too. I also learned how to not make a snow shelter. Theirs was more like a lean-to.
The action sequences in the film were pretty cool, but after a while I got a little bored seeing ice crack again and again. And in one of the film’s climatic scenes, there’s a huge explosion, but you can so tell someone inserted some CGI fire over a still shot. Lame…
There were a couple funny lines in the movie:
“The lunatics are coming out of the asylum.” Garber says this so clipped and eye-roly, that I replayed it a couple of times. This is followed by Methane Man shouting at his team to “move your egghead asses!” Ha!
If you are in the holiday spirit and wish to see some snow and earthquake stuff whilst learning a few survival facts and feeling a little bit of suspense (but not too much, mind you), this might be the movie for you. If you love Victor Garber, at least fast-forward to his scenes. If you are hoping for a full-on action movie where the fate of the world hangs by a thread, this ain’t that movie. I found out the hard way. Oh well, at least the dog survives.