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Ice from the Sun   B+

Wicked Pixel Cinema

Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Eric Stanze
Writer: Eric Stanze
Cast: DJ Vivona, Ramona Midgett, Angela Zimmerly, Todd Tevlin, Jason Christ, Tommy Biondo, Jo Palermo, Tracey Hein, Jessica Wyman.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Ice from the Sun is a dazzling feast of bizarre images and sounds. At its best, it can mesmerize us with sequences that are at once strangely beautiful and undeniably hideous. Truly one of the most visually stunning films made at such a low budget, Ice from the Sun is a marvel for the eyes. Though this film is surely an instance of style over substance, those looking for something unique in the realm of underground horror need look no further.

In an ice-encased dimension somewhere between Heaven and Hell, an evil wizard has just been annihilated by his power-hungry apprentice known as The Presence (DJ Vivona). During this power struggle, a woman meant as one of their sacrificial toys somehow escapes back to Earth -- alerting the angels in Heaven and the devils in Hell to the fact that The Presence (a common enemy for both parties) may be weak enough to defeat. But only a being of flesh and blood can enter the ice-encased dimension, so they pick a recent suicide victim to be the reluctant assassin.

Alison (Ramona Midgett) is her name, and she will be sent into the ice in conjunction with six other humans that The Presence has picked to become victims of his sadistic games. You see, The Presence picks six people every few years and brings them into the dimension. He then tortures them, praying on their worst fears, until he kills them and their souls become entrapped in the ice. He's not a very nice guy, as you can probably guess. Alison has her work cut out for her.

Ice from the Sun often achieves a fever-pitched nightmarish quality that slowly creeps under your skin. Shot on Super-8mm film in both color and black and white, the grainy images help add to the dreamy delirium. Writer-director Eric Stanze has created one of the most daringly experimental films of recent years, and its visual ambiance sometimes seems like a cross between a Nine Inch Nails video and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. It's likely to be embraced by some and shunned by others. Indeed, if you can't handle brutal violence and shocking imagery, beware. One scene in particular has a female victim stripped down, tied to the back of a truck, and dragged across the ground until she's a bloody pulp. Then rock salt is poured over her body. Not easy to watch.

There are several sequences in Ice from the Sun that I wouldn't hesitate to call perfect. But at nearly two hours in length, it does tend to drag in places. I think the film would have benefited from less exposition of the mythology behind the story, as well as less dialogue here and there. Eric Stanze's previous film, Savage Harvest, was a fun little horror flick, but it was nothing groundbreaking. Ice from the Sun frequently feels like a masterpiece, and it breaks ground that hasn't ever been walked upon before.

I think the film suffers, though, because of its heroine, Alison. She's just not that interesting, nor do we ever get to know much of anything about her. I really wanted to be able to root for her, maybe even care about her, but that didn't happen. Maybe I'm just too picky, since Ice from the Sun isn't really about the characters anyway. It's about images and sounds, and sucking you into a strange and horrifyingly surreal universe. And, at that, Ice from the Sun frequently succeeds.

Review published 07.14.2000.

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