Have you been dreaming of a White Christmas? Are you looking forward to running out into the frozen yard and building a snowman? Better be careful, because that snowman might come to life and be your dad. Or it might come to life and try to kill you. Either way, it’s gonna be about as satisfying as a swift kick to the jingle balls. At least that’s how I felt after watching both the 1998 family-comedy Jack Frost and the 1996 Independent-Horror film also titled Jack Frost.
Amazing that two films with the same title and same concept exist, but with two very different executions. One was made by a major studio with high budget effects and stars and the other? Not so much. Both of these films are terrible but for different reasons. What I’m going to do here is break down each film in a side-by-side comparison. Want to know which film is a bigger hunk of coal? Just keep reading and you shall receive.
- ’98: Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) is the lead singer/harmonica…ist of the smokin’ hot colorado-based “The Jack Frost Band.” On the verge of success, Jack devotes most of his time to his music when he should be spending time with his emotionally neglected son Charlie (Joseph Cross). Torn between his life as the world’s coolest dad and world’s most underwhelming blues musician, Jack decides to do one last gig before taking his son and wife Gabby (Kelly Preston) on a family vacation. Too bad he crashes his car during a snowstorm and dies. A Year later, Charlie makes a snowman with his dad’s old stuff and plays his dad’s lucky harmonica. Next thing you know, Jack is back as a snowman with a second chance. Hilarity ensues.
- ’96: Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is a notorious serial killer on his way to a prison where he’ll be executed. However, due to a freak accident, the police transfer vehicle collides with a tanker full of experimental acid. Jack escapes the wreckage but is confronted by Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport). Suddenly, the tanker bursts and Jack is melted down into a skeleton. Jack swears revenge on everyone he knows as he dies an excruciating death. Miraculously, Jack’s DNA fuses with the snow and turns into a killer snowman. Of course, we find out later that the FBI purposefully wanted to test their experimental acid on a convict. Those fools! Can this ice-cold killer be stopped? Hilarity ensues.
Winner: Jack Frost ’98. The setup is typical of many family comedies but you do have something invested in the characters. A lot of good family comedies (especially from the 90s) have begun in similar ways and ended up being good, so there’s promise. On the other hand, Jack Frost ’96 is devoid of any originality in its by-the-numbers slasher movie setup. Though I love the idea of snow fusing with a killer’s DNA.
- ’98: “He’s the world’s coolest dad and he’s gonna prove it.”
- ’96: “He’s Chillin’ and Killin’.”
Winner: Jack Frost ’96 is short and sweet. The other one is pretty creepy when you consider Michael Keaton has to prove his “coolness” from beyond the grave.
- ’98: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Mark Addy, Joseph Cross, Andrew Lawrence.
- ’96: Christopher Allport, F. William Parker, Stephen Mendel, Scott MacDonald. Mostly small-time TV actors.
Winner: Jack Frost ’98. Batman and Fred Flintstone? Sign me up.
- ’98: “Medford, Colorado.” Sounds Nice.
- ’96: “Snowmonton.” The fuck? Do they mean like “Snow-Man-Town”? That’s awful.
Winner: Even though it makes little sense and isn’t remotely clever, “Snowmonton” is oddly memorable. Got to give it to Jack Frost ’96.
Who is the Snowman?
- ’98: Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) the lead singer of “The Jack Frost Band” (think Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Huey Lewis). He’s a cool dad, but not cool when it comes to responsibility. He misses his son’s hockey game (his son sucks) and flakes out when it comes to fatherhood. It is only in death as a snowman that Jack can truly learn what it means to be there for someone.
- ’96: Jack Frost (Scott McDonald) a mass serial killer who kills for no other reason than as an excuse to make bad puns.
Winner: I give it to Jack Frost ’98. The murderous Jack Frost’s motivations are kind of foggy. The fact that he was killed and melted into a skeleton was a freak accident. Yet Jack seeks revenge on everyone just cuz. It doesn’t make any sense why he wouldn’t focus all his attention on the Sheriff instead of other innocent bystanders. Guess he just likes chillin’ and killin’.
How is the Snowman created?
- ’98: Jack crashes his car during a snowstorm (his death is offscreen). A year later, Jack’s sad son decorates a snowman with Jack’s old stuff (including his lucky harmonica) which magically brings Jack back… As a snowman.
- ’96: A tanker crashes into Jack’s prison transfer vehicle. Jack survives but is killed when experimental acid bursts from the tanker and melts him. The acid fuses Jack’s molecules with the snow and he becomes a snow-murderer.
Winner: Jack Frost ’96. I’ll pick experimental acid over a magical harmonica any day of the week.
What’s the Snowman do?
- ’98: Jack tries to redeem himself by helping Charlie overcome his obstacles. Jack helps Charlie fend off bullies with a barrage of snowballs and then chases them down a hill on a snowboard. Jack also teaches Charlie how to not play hockey like an idiot. Though we are never given any prior indication that Jack knows anything about hockey or that he is particularly skilled at hockey.
- ’96: Blaming his frosty-fate on Sheriff Sam Tiller, Jack seeks revenge on the sheriff, his family, and all the fine residents of “Snowmonton”. He kills someone with an ax, christmas tree decorations, and other winter-themed murders.
Winner: Jack Frost ’96 for its outrageous, violent set pieces. While the deaths are ridiculous, they are at least entertaining. The other film is surprisingly slow with Charlie spending most of his time talking to his snowman dad. Aside from snowboarding, they don’t really do much. The film does very little with the fact that he’s a snowman. How about some scenes of Charlie trying to disguise his dad in a costume with him melting everywhere? That would be a stroke of genius.
- ’98: A Snowman snowboarding
- ’96: A Snowman rapes a woman in a shower.
Winner: Jack Frost ’96. Now there’s nothing funny about rape, but this movie is so detached from reality it’s oddly fascinating. He’s a big pile of slush, yet he feels a weird sexual urge? It boggles the mind. Just for that, it’s the film’s most memorable scene.
- ’98: “Better snow dad than no dad” or how about when Charlie says, “You’re the man!” to which Jack responds, “I’m the snowman!”
- ’96: After killing someone with an axe: “I only axe-ed ya for a smoke.” After Jack Frost rapes a woman in the shower: “Looks like Christmas CAME a little early.”
Winner: Jack Frost ’96. All of Jack’s dialogue is made up of puns. It was like watching Batman & Robin if it was R-rated.
- ’98: Amazing Puppetry effects from Jim Henson Studios. I could barely tell when it was a puppet and when it was CGI.
- ’96: Awful, why is the snowman’s head so big? He looks like a cheap high school mascot. The topper is a terrible CGI scene where Jack’s molecules turn into um, snowman molecules
Winner: Jack Frost ’98. No contest. One film had money and the other didn’t. It’s not even close.
How Does the Snowman die?
- ’98: Jack slowly fades away once it’s his time to go at the end of winter. Lame, magic bullshit.
- ’96: Jack is pushed out of a second story window into a limo hot tub where he’s strangled/melted to death.
Winner: Jack Frost ’96 no question. The whole movie is about finding different ways to kill the killer.
- ’98: Hardcore-Punk icon Henry Rollins plays Charlie’s easily agitated hockey coach. He doesn’t do much but yell and make angry faces. I guess if you need someone pissed you gotta get the best… Or should I say the beast?
- ’96: Shannon Elizabeth (credited as Shannon Elizabeth Fadal), you know from the American Pie movies? Jack Frost was her first movie and yes, she is raped by a snowman.
Winner: Henry Rollins in anything is weird. This one goes to Jack Frost ’98.
So Which One is Worse?
By my count, Jack Frost ’96 beats Jack Frost ’98 by 7 to 5. Sorry, Michael Keaton, your movie is worse. Jack Frost ’96 maybe a stupid slasher, but it’s way more entertaining than the family garbage that followed in 1998. It just goes to show that you can put as much money as you want on the screen, but if you don’t have an interesting story, no one is going to care. Both films are terrible but I’d re-watch Jack Frost ’96 in a heartbeat. Hope you learned something from this post, I know I did. Seasons Beatings!