I live in Northern Virginia, about 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. The last few weeks we’ve endured endless gray days and nights, punctuated by snow and ice storms. As I write this it is a balmy 29 degrees Fahrenheit, although for once the sun is shining.
The wintry weather has turned my thoughts to one of my great interests – horror movies. Specially, horror movies set in extremely cold climates. Everybody has seen The Shining, and while watching a maniacal Jack Nicolson bust down a bathroom door with an axe never really gets old, I wanted to visit a few other movies set in extreme conditions that may have received less recognition, but are worthy of viewing on a cold winter’s eve all the same.
I’ve picked three of my favorites, but there are many more that fall into this fascinating subcategory I’m dubbing simply as “winter horror movies” (for example, a notable omission is John Carpenter’s The Thing). For each of the films referenced below I’ve provided the IMDB link so you can learn more about these films if they pique your interest.
So, without further delay, let’s leave some bloody tracks in the snow…
Storm of the Century
Storm of the Century, inspired by a Stephen King screenplay of the same name, takes place on Little Tall Island, Maine. As the residents are preparing for a huge snowstorm, a mysterious stranger named Andre Linoge (played by Colm Feore) arrives on the island. Linoge is soon apprehended and held in the local police station after murdering a local woman named Martha Clarendon. However, Linoge is no mortal man, and remains in jail only as long as it suits his purposes. Projecting himself into the thoughts and dreams of the townspeople, Linoge soon drives the townspeople to murder and suicide. It quickly becomes clear that Linoge is more than he seems, and his repeated message of GIVE ME WHAT I WANT AND I’LL GO AWAY is soon taken seriously by the locals, who convene a town meeting to decide whether or not to give in to Linoge’s demands. There is even a brilliant suggestion that Linoge was behind the disappearance of the missing colonists of Roanoke, Virginia in the early 1600s. As is always the case with King’s work, there is much more to the story, so follow the link below to learn more.
30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night takes place in the small town of Barrow, Alaska. Barrow is inside of the Arctic circle and endures a period during the winter months where the sun is not seen for thirty days. This sets the perfect scenario for an ancient tribe of vampires that descend upon the town, taking full advantage of the month of perpetual darkness. After the initial onslaught, which involves destroying the town’s telecommunications and power centers, the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse between the vampires and a handful of survivors led by the town’s sheriff (played by Josh Hartnett). Ironically, it is the power of the sun that ultimately is harnessed and turned against the invading vampires.
Follow the link below to learn more.
Ok – I’m going to get some heat (no pun intended) on this one. Whiteout is not technically a horror film. IMDB classifies it as Crime, Mystery and Action. But sometimes the lines between horror and suspense blur, and as suspense goes Whiteout is a good one.
Whiteout follows US Marshall Carrie Stetko (played by Kate Beckinsale) during her assignment at a research base in Antarctica. It is getting close to the end of the season, and the base is shutting down and Carrie and the other residents are planning to catch the plane home instead of “wintering through” the cold season. Carrie’s plans are suddenly changed when a pilot observes a body left out on the ice mass. Risking missing the last plane home, Carrie accompanies the pilot and the medical doctor assigned to the base out to examine the remains. It soon becomes evident that foul play was involved in the death, driving Carrie to winter through to solve the case. A complex story unfolds going back to a Soviet cargo plane lost in a storm back in 1957.
Of the three movies, Whiteout makes you feel the cold most keenly, and the unusual conditions in Antarctica that result in a blinding whiteout. Although not truly horror, the killer that presents themselves as a mysterious figure in a hooded coat and ski mask is as menacing as the killer in Urban Legend that dressed in a similar fashion.
And at the end of the day, is there anything scarier than a killer wielding an ice axe?
So, there you have it, three movies fit for a long winter’s night. Make sure to put some extra logs on the fire as these movies were brilliantly designed to chill you to the bone.