The one benefit to come from a cataclysmic end-of-the-world disaster like the one threatening the characters in 'Ice Quake' would be the extinction of Syfy Channel original movies. They are terrible. Downright awful. The worst. And 'Ice Quake' is no exception.
My biggest beef isn't with the atrocious screenplay, bland and/or scenery-chomping actors, low-budget special effects, or sheer ridiculousness – no, what bothers me the most is the dumb stuff that they try getting away with. For example, in 'Ice Quake,' our hero must stop an underground river from flowing down a certain cave. Since it would cost too much to shoot in caves or build realistic ones on a soundstage, they simply write it into the script that all he has to do is detonate a small bomb at ground level and the tiny blast will be enough to destroy the glacial caves well below the surface. 'Ice Quake' (and basically ever other Syfy original movie) expects you to just go with this nonsensical reality. The only thing more absurd than what they try passing off in their movies is the fact that enough people actually watch and purchase these made-for-television...things to keep Syfy churning them out.
'Ice Quake' tries to pass itself off as a Christmas movie. On Christmas Eve, a military scientist in Fairbanks, Alaska takes notice of odd sub-surface activity occurring in the northern hemisphere. One day earlier, seismic activity was reported in Russia prior to the collapsing of an entire ice shelf. Now, the same precursor events are happening in Alaska – only this time there are scientists nearby collecting the data and piecing together exactly what is going on.
As it turns out, global warming is a cyclical event that has been propelled by human activity. As permafrost has been melting, methane gas has been released in high amounts. Not having come in contact with air yet, the methane gas has remaining in a liquid form below the earth's surface – but now the pressure has built up so much that it's causing the ground to open up in huge crevices and spew out sub-zero gas and frozen water in "ice geysers."
Being Christmas Eve, our hero has the day off and takes his family into the mountains to look for a pine tree worthy of chopping down, mounting in their living room and decorating. The entire Christmas plot is nothing more than a gimmick to get our hero and his family in the mountains. (It's obvious that 'Ice Quake' was not filmed during winter because there's no snow in Fairbanks. Yet another lame reflection of the low budget and the filmmakers not caring to set their movie in reality). While illegally searching for a tree to cut down on government property, the mountainside opens up and separates the kids from their parents. Our hero must save his family and stop mother nature in order to save Christmas. Gag me.
The funniest plot hole in 'Ice Quake' is how severe they make this disaster out to be. "If we don't find a way to stop "more than 100 giga-tons of methane gas" (they repeatedly use this phrase "100 giga-tons" so many times that it would make for an alcohol-poisoning drinking game) from flowing into open air, it will poison the entire planet and kill off all lifeforms!" Yet this exact same disaster just happened in Russia no more than 24 hours ago and the planet seems to be doing just fine.
How they landed Victor Garber, the designer of the Titanic in 'Titanic,' as a co-star is beyond me. How people can actually sit through this garbage is even more unclear to me. The chopper crash and explosions effects on the original 'Modern Warfare' video game are far superior to those in 'Ice Quake.' With at least one shot clearly exposing the camera in a reflection, this movie is one visible boom mic away from being a feature-length YouTube video. Avoid this Blu-ray at all costs.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay has placed 'Ice Quake' on a Region A BD-25 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase that will slow down the momentum of global warming and the eventuality of ice geysers. If the title of the movie itself hasn't scared you away already, the cheesy cover art will. Like most other Anchor Bay Blu-rays, the 'Ice Quake' pre-menu parade features an FBI warning, an Anchor Bay vanity reel, a commentary disclaimer and a trailer for an equally absurd-looking Syfy movie called 'Metal Shifters.' Here's to hoping I don't end up reviewing that title as well!
'Ice Quake' lands on Blu-ray with a run-of-the-mill 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality isn't bad, but it sure isn't demo-worthy either.
As you would hope from a movie mostly taking place in snow-white environments, the colors in 'Ice Quake' explode with vibrancy. This is the first thing you'll notice in the movie since it opens with a man in a deep red Santa Clause outfit riding a snowmobile up the face of snow-packed mountain. The movie's palette is typically cold and colorless, making the rare colors that do appear in the film really stand out. Fleshtones are also cooler than normal, at times the faces of our characters – even those found in warm indoor settings – appearing light blue.
The picture is always clean and sharp, but rarely detailed. Occasional tight close-ups reveal fine textures, but not often enough. Black levels are decent, but, like the fine details, they are typically inconsistent. Throughout the film, some shots carry a light dusting of digital noise, but never any DNR. Edge enhancement, artifacts, banding and aliasing are also absent.
Basically, 'Ice Quake' features the picture quality that you'd expect from a low-budget made-for-television movie with low production values.
The only listening option for 'Ice Quake' is a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track that surprised me because of how good it sounds and how well it utilizes all channels.
As the Anchor Bay vanity reel kicks the movie off, it's instantly noticeable how well the imaging sounds. This never changes throughout the movie. As ice geysers hurl basketball-size chunks of frozen debris, the sound seamlessly travels from channel to channel. Dynamically, 'Ice Quake' never sounds flat and the balance of vocals, effects and music causes none of them to be lost.
The lossless audio of 'Ice Quake' gives all channels full-time work. The rear speakers are always just as active as the surround and forward channels. Each time an ice quake shakes the mountain, your theater will shake with sub-woofer LFE. Having grown up and experienced many earthquakes in southern California, I can vouch that the trembling low rumble sounds of 'Ice Quake' are spot on.
There's a reason that the Syfy channel is constantly the butt of jokes – their made-for-TV movies are awful. 'Ice Quake' is no exception. It's so ridiculous that it's not even worth watching simply to laugh at it. With technology being as advanced as it is, almost anyone can afford to make a picture look decent – and that's about all you can say about the video quality of 'Ice Quake.' It's not terrible, but these days it's hard to make something new look bad. The sound quality is far better than anything else on this disc – the content, the movie and the special features. The lossless 5.1 audio track offers a sound mix better than some big studio Blu-rays out there. But even then, this is one title to avoid at all costs. I'd pay to not have to watch it again.