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‘Jack Frost’ Is Two of the Worst Christmas Movies Ever Made

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Two images side-by-side. One is of a snowman wearing a tie and a hat. The other is a snowman with twig eyebrows.
It is remarkably difficult to tell which one is the evil Jack Frost here. Which tells you everything you need to know about why making a snowman a lead in your movie is a terrible, terrible idea. (Warner Movies and Prism Pictures)

It’s impossible to fathom why Hollywood does a lot of things — casting women as the mothers of people the same age, continuing to make James Bond movies, letting Mel Gibson do literally anything, etc. The list is long. You get it.

One of the most perplexing things that movie studios do is put out incredibly similar projects almost at the same time. Remember when we got two Truman Capote biopics? And when Armageddon and Deep Impact were released two months apart? Or when A Bug’s Life came out directly after Antz? Perhaps the most astounding example occurred in the late 1990s, when we got not one, but two movies about — dear, sweet Lord — possessed snowmen. Oh, and they were both called Jack Frost, because the ’90s were apparently a simpler time when you could get away with that sort of thing.

The fact that both projects rolled with that title after an entirely different (and beloved) Jack Frost movie had already existed for 20 years only adds to the madness. To be clear, the 1979 Jack Frost is bonkers, in a pseudo-psychedelic sort of way. The stop-motion movie begins with a bow tie–wearing groundhog singing “Me and My Shadow,” for crying out loud.

The ’90s Jack Frosts had something else in mind, to put it lightly. The 1997 one is a grisly little tale about a crazed serial killer doing a bunch of murders while inside the body of a snowman. (I know.) The 1998 Jack Frost is a strange little story in which the spirit of Michael Keaton’s eyebrows possesses a snowman so he can spend more time with his grieving son. And while, yes, those do make for distinctly different plot directions, the two movies have more in common than you might think.

Both have main characters who are named Jack Frost while they are living, human men, yet no one ever notes the incredible synchronicity of them suddenly becoming actual snowmen. Both men end up in their legless white forms after dying in crashes caused by snowstorms. Both immediately seek revenge on teen bullies for some reason. Both are, at one time or another, threatened with hairdryers. (Yes, in case you were wondering, melting does serve as a major plot point in both Jack Frosts.)

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Here’s the plot of 1998 Jack Frost in more detail. Charlie is an 11-year-old boy who lives in a supremely irritating Colorado town where everyone is perpetually throwing snowballs at each other. Henry Rollins is Charlie’s hockey coach because Henry Rollins applied no discernment whatsoever to the movies he appeared in during the 1990s. Charlie’s mom is a generic blond mom and his dad is a white blues musician named — but of course — Jack Frost.

A boy in winter clothes sits on the front of a sled as it zips down a snow-covered hill. Behind him sits a snowman holding onto his waist.
Oh, look! It’s a boy sledding with a snowman that’s possessed by the spirit of his dead father! Cool. (Warner Movies)

One Christmas Day, Jack dies in a car crash (festive fun!) while off doing white blues-related nonsense. Time then jumps forward a year because no audience wants to watch a child cry grief tears for an hour and a half. One night, Charlie builds a snowman that is suddenly, inexplicably occupied by the spirit of his dead father. At first, Charlie is rightly horrified. But then Jack helps Charlie in — what else? — a snowball fight, so they start hanging out all the time. The movie is preposterous and in poor taste and yet somehow still incredibly dull.

All of those descriptors also apply to the 1997 Jack Frost, though for entirely different reasons. In this one, a prison truck carrying a serial killer through a snowstorm to his execution collides with a genetic research truck. The serial killer ends up drenched in an experimental substance that kills and liquifies him, but then — ah, winter magic — helps him to become one with the snow. Jack Frost the serial killer transforms into Jack Frost the snowman … and also serial killer. This snowman serial killer has the puffiest little mitten hands you’ve ever seen, too, which is incredibly distracting during every single murder scene that follows.

A snowman with twig eyebrows and icicle fangs interacts with a human.
When your snowman is possessed by a serial killer, it needs twig eyebrows in order to convey its menacing soul. (Prism Pictures)

The one good thing I will say for this trashiest of horror movies is that at least I got a couple of laughs out of it — one of which I’m fairly sure was intentional!

There’s no making sense of the fact that these two movies were made in such close proximity, with the same central theme, but for entirely different audiences. But know this: If you have a vested interest in torturing your loved ones with truly terrible movies this holiday season, one or both of these will do the job.

And if even contemplating that prospect leaves you in need of a little palate cleanser, then please accept this clip from 1979’s Jack Frost. Yes, it’s the dapper little groundhog singing “Me and My Shadow.”

Happy holidays, everyone.

Jack Frost’ (1979), ‘Jack Frost’ (1997) and ‘Jack Frost 2’ (2000) — because yes, of course there was a sequel — are all streaming on Tubi right now. ‘Jack Frost’ (1998) is over on Hulu.

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