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Based on true events, BELOW ZERO is a thriller with a 'Fargo' feel. It is the story of 'Jack the Hack', a less than average, but once successful screenwriter who now faces writer's block. Desperate to meet a career-saving deadline and lock out the distractions of his troubled life, Jack arranges to be left alone and locked inside a meat cooler, with only vegetarian meals and his imagination to inspire him. As the temperature drops, the lines between reality and fiction blur, and Jack's script comes dangerously to life. Will he make the most important deadline of his career? Or is Jack 'just a hack'? While writing the script, the actual screenwriter and producer of BELOW ZERO, Signe Olynyk, arranged to have herself physically locked in the meat freezer of an abandoned, remote slaughterhouse. That's partly how this story developed. It was filmed at the same location. Written by
Jack is an aspiring screenwriter whose goal is to write a movie about a man locked in a freezer. To do this, he needs to be locked in a freezer himself, and he travels to a remote area to do this. It is already cold where Jack goes, but he needs to be even colder. Penny, the quirky woman who picks him up, has an accent straight out of the movie "Fargo", and a son who won't talk; his father took off years ago because he couldn't accept a son who was "different". Whatever Jack needs, she will provide; Jack's agent has provided all the directions. They go to an old slaughterhouse and Jack goes right to work in the freezer, which Penny locks unexpectedly. Jack wants out, but Penny has been told he has to stay there for five days. It isn't cold, though ... yet.
As Jack works, we see the movie that he is writing. It's quite dreary; everything looks green, while in the "real world" of the freezer, everything looks blue. Frank (Jack) drives a tow truck and his friend Marty works at the garage. According to the credits, the same actor playing Marty is supposedly Jack's agent, but I don't recall seeing him. Anyway, Frank has an accident inspired by an incident with cows that Jack and Penny had. He has to go in search of a phone, and there isn't much around. He finds an isolated dump of a butcher shop which looks quite familiar, and a demented butcher named Gunnar violently attacking his meat. Gunnar has a creepy son who won't talk. Frank manages to find the phone and call Marty. When Marty calls back, Gunnar angrily says Frank isn't there; he believes this to be true, as Frank is hiding. As Jack makes script changes, we see the film "rewind", and other techniques are used later for rewrites.
Occasionally we return to the "real world", where Jack faces one crisis after another. He ends up using a great-looking old typewriter for his writing at one point. Eventually, Jack is under pressure to produce as the thermostat starts getting lowered.
Back in the movie within a movie, Frank discovers Paige, who is being held prisoner. And Marty shows up eventually but doesn't exactly have a positive experience with Gunnar.
We go through some amazing plot twists in both the "real world" and the movie within a movie. I found it funny when the characters had to figure out what to do next and ended up looking through the pages Jack had typed. And it's not the only time they break the fourth wall.
In a flashback we do learn about the other character which the actor playing Gunnar was. He's very different but still scary looking.
The ending was quite unexpected (to me, anyway) but very satisfying.
The movie within a movie is somewhat effective as a B horror movie. Michael Berryman is a very frightening and intimidating villain, yet loving as a father, in his own way. The young actor quite creepy for a kid. Kristin Booth is very convincing when she is cold, but frightened? Not as talented in that situation. She's better in her "real world" role.
I've heard the name Edward Furlong. He's pretty good, I guess. Nothing overly distinctive.
I felt comfortable with Michael Eisner. He was sort of the voice of reason when he could be.
The "real world" has its own interesting suspense qualities. And there is occasional comedy in both.
This most definitely isn't for kids. The sound went out a lot since this was broadcast TV. I know what that means. And that's just the bad language. Maybe when cleaned up for TV, some kids can handle it.
Is this any good? Well, it's different.
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