Ice Road Terror
Strange as it may sound, I have long had a love-hate relationship with Syfy Original Pictures. They’re the modern equivalent of the cheesy B-movie creature features from the 50s and 60s that I love, but the special effects are atrocious Playstation 2 era graphics that make me long for shoddy practical effects. Yet, with time I’ve grown to love the uneven monstrosities that Syfy seems to produce on a weekly basis. They’re thin of plot, superficially topical, alternately silly and earnest, brimming with absurdities, and still better than any of the hundred reality shows on every channel but kids’ networks like Cartoon Network… Oh God, please don’t let them make reality shows for kids; as a society, we can’t let that happen to our children. Anyhow, I’m glad I took the opportunity to watch Ice Road Terror, a movie whose premise is as ridiculous as its title and hence incredible.
Ice Road Terror starts with a group of diamond miners in Alaska, who dynamite open a new mine shaft. Naturally, this opens a fissure that lets out a giant lizard/dinosaur that immediately proceeds to eat everyone in sight. Enter the protagonists, Jack, Neil, and Rachel. Jack and Neil are ice road truckers, who need to deliver explosives to the mine; they are in no way related to the people from that show Ice Road Truckers, honest. Rachel is an analyst sent by the government to make sure the miners are following environmental regulations; she hitches a ride with the two truckers.
When the trio arrives at the mine, all they find is blood and body parts splattered everywhere. They manage to save one of the surviving miners and barely escape the angry lizard/dinosaur thing. There’s a dramatic chase as the truckers try to navigate the slick, icy road and avoid the lizard. The explosives Jack’s transporting in the back of his truck fall over and catch fire, prompting Jack and Rachel to leap dramatically from their burning truck to Neil’s truck before it explodes. Figuring that the lizard has been dealt with, they make a stop to try and unhook the trailer so they can go faster, which gives the lizard just enough time to come up from under the ice to drag down the (expendable) miner who survived. It’s worth noting that the seeming road they were driving on was in fact a river, the ice was only an inch or two thick, and it was all totally realistic. After some rad 18-wheeler drifting, the group makes the bright idea to stop again to try and unhook the trailer. Since they’re temporarily afflicted with acute stupidity, they run and hide in the snow when the lizard shows up instead of, you know, trying to drive away. The creature proceeds to destroy the truck because trucks are the reptile’s natural enemy.
Jack, Neil, and Rachel trek through the snow to the only house in 100 miles, inhabited by Mr. and Mrs. Lowman, a friendly older couple. Of course, their pickup isn’t starting and their radio isn’t working because of the aurora. We learn that the lizard is called a wenchu (I think that’s how it spelled), a creature from Inuit legend that eats people; Rachel later suggests it might actually be some dinosaur called Predator-X, which is probably the name of the Syfy Channel’s next movie. We also learn that the creature must use thermal imaging to see things and that thin sheets of plywood are the ultimate defense against wenchu attacks. Jack and Rachel have an intimate moment because apparently they love each other. If only I was an Alaskan trucker getting attacked by a lizard/dinosaur from Inuit legend. The ladies would be all over me too. Because the characters in this film aren’t allowed to learn from their mistakes, they go outside to try and start the pickup to escape, using a fire to try and distract the creature. The wenchu ain’t no fool and ignores the fire in favor of ripping open Mr. Lowman’s gut and dragging him away. They go to retrieve Lowman’s body, shocking the wenchu perched on the tin roof with a generator and some wires to prevent it from attacking. This does not stop it from stabbing Mrs. Lowman with its tail as they walk into the house. Its tail doesn’t look particularly sharp, but it goes right through her back and chest. In one last act of desperation, the trio lures the killer ice lizard in the house in the hopes that they can quickly escape from the top floor before it can chase after them outside. Neil manages to gouge the wenchu’s eyes out with a homemade spear but gets eaten for his efforts. Jack and Rachel escape through the second story window and manage to kill the wenchu by creating a flamethrower with an old gas pump. They’re able to escape before the pump explodes, killing the wenchu. Their happy ending is to embark on a trip to somewhere warmer, Seattle.
Ice Road Terror has it all: action, romance, and a tenuous link to the inexplicably popular reality show, Ice Road Truckers. It has an exploding truck, giant lizard maulings, and a gas pump flamethrower. It has a trucker call a woman a misfit in their most intimate moment: truly a love that will last. It has ice road truckers skidding over craters in the ice and jumping from their vehicles. Am I overselling it? Absolutely. Is it still better than Ice Road Truckers and every reality show drama of that ilk? Hell yes.