Despite his high standing in the hierarchies of cinema — mighty paragon of the glistening visual arts lest we forget — Jeff Fahey nevertheless remains incessantly trapped in a stalled shell of persistent attack, subject to a wealth of opposition from each and every direction. Whether it’s the pangs of jealousy, the screams of contrariness, or the judders of repressed sexual desire, Fahey’s foes are numerous and take many forms. From the naysayers who misconstrued his phenomenological critique of value in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, to those weighty consonants that have populated hurtful review after hurtful review, the assailing forces laugh at suggestions of détente, taking the moment’s quiet for an additional underhand jab at Fahey’s illustrious mane of perfection.
Paramount to the continuing sustainability of these attacks is the capacity to evolve, forever assuming new guises to muddle the danger senses of Fahey’s corona blue. It’s due to this dynamic that Absolute Zero sees Fahey’s nemesis don a garment of massive proportions, for in this film the man sporting the blonde chords of virtue atop his head must engage in combat with, and defend mankind against, the blustery retchings of the Earth’s climate.
Like a string section swelling but not yet high enough in the mix to be audible, Fahey’s presence in Absolute Zero is initially concealed whilst an opening scene unravels in the vicinity of the screen. The dish we are served features a coterie of scientists rummaging around that vast ice pop we call Antarctica. Inebriated by the array of instrumentation that graces the walls of their research hut, the crew are in high spirits. But when the land on which they reside begins to fall into infinity, ruining a perfectly good barbeque, conclusions are reached approaching the negative.
What does one do in this situation, underpaid researchers spooked by the possibility that next time they venture outside they’ll end up plummeting to depths not seen since Haim and Feldman’s last outing? Well, you throw in a Fahey, of course. And throw him in they do. Dropped by a helicopter in hasty retreat, Fahey meets an old buddy and they set to work exploring a subterranean cave newly-found nearby. Conditions worsen and moods receive a blow of melancholy when a raging storm rolls into camp midway through the reconnaissance. Death befalls all except Fahey, who is left pondering cave scribbles deep below the surface, ancient scribbles that may prove to hold the key to explaining the climatological affliction set to envelope the planet.
So, Fahey returns from his icy Antarctic grotto to the breezy, sun-coated beaches of Miami. How he returned from imprisonment underneath the cataclysmic weather spasms is never explained, we can only infer that he bolted through the Earth’s crust, propelling himself like a bullet on an underground transcontinental trip.
Alas, the dodgy weather doesn’t play by the rules. Rather than staying an isolated event occurring considerable miles away from anything, it sees fit to impose itself on the sort of topographies infested by millions of scampering little mammals. As glaciers replace rich playboys in Miami’s waterfront, Fahey takes the reins of responsibility and begins a hazardous gallop to discover the precise scientific terms to ascribe to this fleet of snowy madness. And maybe, just maybe, he will come through and save the entire city from catastrophe, protecting every one of its citizens and shielding the infrastructure under one almighty wing of security.
Or maybe he won’t. Perhaps he was fed-up with perpetual traffic jams, or the smog choking his lungs every afternoon, because the worst does indeed happen. Suffice it to say, if Fahey allowed Miami to freeze, killing all who had not eloped by that point, then it was probably a beneficial thing for the city – anyway, we all know how popular ski resorts are in this day and age. However, in the end, Fahey does become embroiled in a race against time, regardless of its scope.
By a stroke of luck, and an undoubted eternity spent in grad school, Fahey ascertains that a temperature of absolute zero will rain down upon Miami, transforming the beaches into freezers and having a detrimental effect on next year’s spring break. Fahey calculates the time until this disaster down to the very microsecond, gifting himself a race against the clock to gather up his accomplices and pack him and them into his special absolute zero room that will shelter them from the chills outside.
Joining Fahey on this wild excursion is erstwhile Baywatch object Erika Eleniak, still dizzy from her encounter with Steven Seagal in Under Siege. Looked at closely, Eleniak’s sub-Fahey eyes betray her immanent preoccupation with Seagal’s knife histrionics and her disillusionment at being passed over with regard the sequel. Here she plays not Fahey’s wife as the DVD description states, but a former flame now married to an old pal of Fahey’s. The name of this pal? Why, it’s none other than Jeff. How are we to interpret this odd coincidence? Well, first of all, there are no coincidences where Fahey is concerned – all comes into being via his divine will, with no space for Chance to mosh its way into the fermentation. No, the answer lies with Fahey’s immutable essence. I submit to you, good reader, that Fahey’s quintessence is of such potency that his reality spills over into the film, thus imprinting his wholesome forename on to the frame of one of his co-stars. Unfortunately, this other-Jeff gets killed by a flying palm tree halfway through the film, bringing an end to a peculiar refraction of Fahey that is not without precedent (cf. Corpses).
With charity stomped into the stitches of his fleece, Fahey takes on two young apprentices for this filmic endeavour. A.J., a rather cute science major, provides a great function by doing the minor technical tasks that are but a besmirchment on Fahey’s ‘to do’ list. Philip, a strip joint enthusiast, radiates the requisite stupidity to allow for long disclosures about what all these chemistry symbols might signify in the right lighting. Together they form a smooth pavement of comic relief for Fahey to walk on, assuaging excessive tensions as the group traverses a five-inch thick ledge in subfreezing temperatures. They also act as a welcome counterpart to the token Evil Corporate Guy, a man who cares not how many cars are being blown away outside by large CGI bubbles.
“No warning. No time. No escape,” reads the DVD cover of Absolute Zero, to which I’d like to add: “But plenty of Fahey.” There it is, the crux of the film, and perhaps the crux also of life: three negations, in turn negated by the presence of Fahey. This is not merely some sordid analogy, far from it. It’s truly indicative of Fahey’s omniscience that he can mollify the fiery palpitations of a treble No, not simply disarming them of their pain-inducing facilities, but also transmogrifying them into something altogether better. By assimilating the negations, Fahey is able to remind us that we are but a speck of dust floating down his corneas, his stature standing proud as the fulcrum of existence, doing so once again through the profound tonalities of his cinematic sculptures.Powered by Sidelines