Though it sounds like just another holed-up-with-a-mad-killer meller, “Avalanche” is a genuine grabber, even if it should have come in at 90 minutes. Scripter Tim Redman’s shrewd teleplay has been turned into a solid thriller with the help of superior perfs and director Paul Shapiro’s creative hand.
Right off the bat, David Hasselhoff kills a man in a diamond heist and jumps on a plane. He bails out with the jewels over the snow-covered Canadian Rockies, landing near a cabin where writer Michael Gross, teenage daughter Deanna Milligan and young son Miles Ferguson are vacationing.
Hasselhoff’s crash landing sets off an avalanche that isolates Gross and kids in the snow-covered house and buries Hasselhoff outside in a snowbank. As the family starts trying to dig out, Milligan uncovers an unconscious Hasselhoff, whom Gross resuscitates.
The tension begins, with Hasselhoff secretly intent on his diamonds lost in the snow while pacifist Gross is trying to rescue his kids and himself from the snow caving in on them.
Redman’s careful delineation of characters gives the vidpic admirable realism as Gross and Hasselhoff square off. One uncharacteristic gesture by the principled Gross — secreting the diamonds when he accidentally finds them — doesn’t jell, and there’s not really a sense of snowbound cold, but the plot drives on. There are gruesome, worrisome moments as Hasselhoff rallies after an attack, and his final scene plays like Frankenstein’s monster facing destruction.
In scenes with each of the youngsters, Hasselhoff shrewdly plays off their ingenuousness, and the seg of young Ferguson seeking help outside on the mountain ridge is striking.
Gross establishes the father as an honorable, devoted man fighting for his children’s safety, while Hasselhoff’s pathological killer may occasionally go over the top, but remains credible. Milligan beautifully establishes the role of the daughter besieged by various terrors. Ferguson, never once playing it cute, does an honest job as the son who, like his dad, can’t give up.
Shapiro brings off a tour de force as each character reveals another layer and the tension builds in Jonathan Goodwill’s handsome production. Alar Kivilo’s camerawork is stunning, and production designer Michael Joy has arranged believable interiors, spectacular Canadian exteriors.
Michael Robison’s editing helps the good pacing in the never-let-up meller, and Jonathan Goldsmith has punctuated the drama with his dissonant, urgent score.