A welcome, cool breeze recently rolled through Toronto, but you can bet that the crippling humidity we experienced just a week earlier will be looping back around for one more visit before the end of summer. With that in mind, I made a quick list of some winter-themed horror movies to have on hand for just that occasion. Crank the AC (if you have it, you lucky duck), bust out some banana or chocolate flavoured Popsicles (you know they were the best ones), and curl up with some of these flicks.
Let’s get the expected recommendation out of the way early, with John Carpenter‘s The Thing. This is a go-to pick for snow-covered scares – a legitimate classic that combines shockingly violent monster transformations with a chillingly tense atmosphere provided by scenes like the infamous blood test segment. Coupled with a wickedly bad-ass performance from Kurt Russell – anyone who smashes his computer in a fit of chess-losing anger is already a pretty great protagonist, in my eyes – The Thing manages to be a winter based horror flick that might have you shuddering for reasons other than the temperature. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, what rock have you been living under? Sheesh.
The Jack Frost VHS is one of my favourite tapes I own – not only does it try and sell this goofy-ass movie as straight-up horror, it also has a bitchin’ 3D cover that transforms Jack from snowman to snowmonster as you tilt it from left to right. You might also remember this gimmick from other tapes like Uncle Sam – thanks A-Pix Entertainment! Your dedication to a cool covers often overshadowed the films themselves – I’m looking in your direction, Ice Cream Man.
Anyway, Jack Frost is a hilarious horror-comedy featuring tons of great pseudo-science, one-liners (“Hey, I’m a Picasso!”) and an early appearance from a pre-American Pie Shannon Elizabeth. Also, one notable part of Jack Frost that has always delighted me is the laughably fake snow – apparently, they shot the film in summer and had to dress every scene like it was winter, complete with fake snow. I even read somewhere that the cast would suck on ice cubes in-between takes in an attempt to have icy-cool breath visible on-screen. The punchline to this story, is that two years later when Jack Frost II: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman was filmed, they ended up shooting in the middle of winter – despite the fact it took place on a tropical island retreat, effectively reversing the events of the original production. D’oh!
One more fun fact: writer-director Michael Cooney went on to write such big-budget twist-filled films as Identity, The I Inside and Shelter. One of which, is something of a guilty pleasure of mine. Spoiler alert: it stars John Cusack.
The Last Winter
Ron Perlman stars in Larry Fessenden‘s eco-horror/supernatural film The Last Winter – an atmospheric slow-burn about oil-drillers in Alaska that immediately calls to mind the measured, pot-boiling nature of films like The Thing or The Hole. Unfortunately, all the good will The Last Winter builds up in the first two thirds isn’t exactly capitalized on with the slightly disappointing finale – or at least that was how I reacted when I first saw it. Despite that issue, the deft hand of Fessenden makes The Last Winter a rewarding viewing experience to those who prefer their films slow, quiet, and unnerving. It’s no wonder Fessenden has taken Ti West under his wing – releasing the latter’s films through his own production company, Glass Eye Pix – a name that has become synonymous with quality retro-horror and off-beat independent pictures. Fessenden’s earlier film, Wendigo, would make a nice companion piece, as well.
Cold Prey aka Fritt vilt
Cold Prey is a Norwegian slasher focusing on a group of snowboarders who are forced to make a pit-stop at a long-since abandoned hotel when one of their crew suffers an immobilizing leg injury. Being that Cold Prey is a horror movie, obviously this doesn’t end very well for the snowboarders. The movie was actually a pretty big hit in Norway upon it’s release – both financially and critically, surprisingly. By the time Cold Prey hit the video shelves of my local rental shop, I had already soaked up all the buzz surrounding the film online. Hell, when the DVD case proudly proclaims “Probably the most perfect slasher ever made!”, it’s hard not to walk in with great expectations. I remember being slightly let down by Cold Prey at the time, but to be totally fair, it is a pretty well rounded little slasher movie that should do the trick on a hot summer evening. Maybe plan a snowboard themed double feature with Shredder?
Here’s another “If you haven’t seen this yet, what the hell have you been doing?” pick for the list. To be completely honest though, I don’t think you can make a list of any length about winter-based horror movies and not include Black Christmas. It takes place on the University of Toronto campus, guys – in Canada! Nothing is colder than the public’s mental image of Canada, and thus it rightfully earns a spot on this list. It’s a bonus that this movie is a friggin’ all-time classic, horror or otherwise. Seriously, I’ll watch this movie any day of the year. It’s actually a tradition in our household to watch Black Christmas on Christmas Eve – but a particularly hot day in July will just as easily send me running inside to hide from the sun with Jess, Barb, Lt. Kenneth, Phyllis, Mrs. Mac and the rest of the Black Christmas crew. Just avoid the 2006 remake like the frostbitten piece of trash it is.
You’d have to be a pretty cold person to kill a child, right? See what I did there? The Children is a really entertaining British horror movie about an unexplained illness – or virus of some sort – that turns children into murderous psychopaths while on Christmas vacation with their parents. Specifically, I picked this movie for the list because the parents are constantly yelling at the children to wear their coats, to zip up their zippers, etc. I also picked it because the final third of the film packed with one incredible Parents-vs.-Children set-piece after another. If you haven’t seen The Children, you definitely need to check it out.
And with that, I’ll leave you to chill with your ice-packs and frostees on the couch. If you have any other favourite chilled horror movies – add them to the comments!