Living in Eastern Pennsylvania, we usually get a few good snowfalls each winter. Usually this trend starts some time after thanksgiving and usually doesn’t hit the full stride until about February.
This year however, some surrounding towns with higher elevations ended up ten inches of snow already. Just to give you reference, I haven’t even started clearing the leaves out of the yard yet because about a third of them are still green and on the tree. This got me thinking about one of the best days in anyone’s life: the unplanned snow day.
You are stuck at your home and can’t go anywhere, so you have no excuses not to sit in front of the TV and burn those hours comfortably in front of a fire with a hot cup of cocoa (or coffee with booze in it). So with that, I want to introduce you to a few films that I feel are perfect for that surprise lazy vacation day. Relax, kick your feet up, and grab your drink, you deserve it.
Storm of the Century (Dir: Craig Baxley 1999):
A Strange man that calls himself Andre Linoge quietly descends on a small island town off the coast of Maine knowing everything about the town’s snowed in inhabitants. Turns out that he needs something from the town and he feels that the residents know how to keep a secret.
Why watch it? : Well first off, it’s a great Stephen King adaptation despite the fact that it was a made as a TV miniseries with half the budget of a Hollywood film. Some of the performances suffered for it, but not in the case of Andre Linoge. Something about Colm Feore knowing every single detail of your life (including things that you have never told anyone) in a small town where everyone knows everyone is frightening.
Why is it a snow day movie?: Well we are going to start a trend here with the theme of isolation. The town is in a white out, where no one can get off the island while a creepy dude who knows everything about your past comes into town and demands something (no spoilers here) that absolutely no one could be expected to give up. It chilling, cold, horrifying, and has a running time of 240 minutes. I promise you, if you have 240 minutes+ of time inside your home, you will not be able to stop watching this till the end.
The Shining (Dir: Stanley Kubrick 1980)
A recovering alcoholic writer (Jack Nicholson) thinks it’s a great idea to take his wife and child to a remote hotel to be its winter caretakers. Turns out that the hotel is haunted and most of the caretaker’s in the past killed themselves. Hilarity does not ensue.
Why watch it?: It’s a Stanley Kubrick film. He didn’t make a bad film in his entire career (Bring the Eyes Wide Shut arguments here, I dare you). This is a film that pretty much invented the steadicam that you see in literally every film made today (that dude in the special features that has some weird rig attached to him with a camera on it, looks like the machine gun holders from Aliens). Add all of that along with Jack Nicholson’s performance and you have yourself one of the most claustrophobic and terrifying films of all time. Also, if you haven’t seen the film, you are a bad person.
Why is it a snow day movie?: A story where a grand hotel is snowed in for all of winter makes the film feel all the more claustrophobic. Plus the film just feelscold both visually and in the narrative of Jack’s psyche. Bundled up on the couch with you warm hot cocoa (or Irish coffee) it’s easy to get lost in this tale of a man turning into his worst nightmare. And god damn Jack Nicholson is creepy as hell in this movie (which is always fun).
The Thing (Dir: John Carpenter 1982)
A group of American military scientists in Antarctica run into a crazy Norwegian that accidentally uncovered an alien life form that can replicate humans that it murders in order to get off the continent.
Why watch it? Because it’s one of the best modern horror movies ever made. It’s easily in the top five of many people’s lists and it really shows John Carpenter at the top of his game. The paranoia of knowing that the man standing next to you could be an alien is haunting and the blood test scenes in the one of the most memorable scenes in horror film history.
Why is it a snow day movie? Do you really need a reason to reacquaint yourself with a classic? The movie takes place in Antarctica during a snowstorm so if for nothing else, you could watch the film thinking to yourself “Well at least I can make it to the store to get some milk and bread if I have to”. Unless your spouse is an alien, then you’re screwed.
Gremlins (Dir: Joe Dante 1984)
A young man breaks 3 important rules concerning his new pet Mogwai and then accidentally unleashes a horrible group of monsters onto the town. That spawned from an adorable 12 inch living stuffed animal somehow.
Why watch it? This is the pinnacle of 80’s horror comedy self reflexive camp fun. A fuzzy and adorable animal gives birth to other furry animals (by getting wet) who then in turn become evil looking gargoyle things that kill people (only if they eat after midnight) so the hidden message here is follow the rules or you die. Whoever (Chris Columbus?) came up with this concept was either on a lot of drugs or is brilliant. I can’t tell which.
Why is it a snow day movie? The town of Kingston Falls is the perfect slice of suburban Americana to get attacked by horrible gremlins that were apparently around as far back as Korea according to Murray Futterman (Dick Miller, one of the best “oh that guy” in the business). It’s snowing outside right now, and if the phones were down you would never know if this is happening across town. You stuck inside and gremlins could be walking all around the house. Plus Phoebe Cates is pretty adorable too…
Black Christmas (Dir: Bob Clark 1974)
Right before Christmas break, an almost empty Sorority House gets invaded by a serial killer who takes out the girls one by one, and makes a few obscene phone calls. And it’s not an exploitation movie believe it or not.
Why watch it? Well because not only it is a quality horror from the 70’s, but it was the unglamorous and unofficial start of the slasher genre. Horror aficionados recognize this as the first true slasher that was perfected by Halloween 4 years later. This would normally be a great point to argue whether or not Halloween ripped off Black Christmas, but I think the long shots of the killer’s POV in the very beginning of the movie speak for themselves.
Why is it a snow day movie? In the film, the girls are stuck in their home right before they are about to go on Christmas break. While they are in their home a killer is crawling through vents and trap doors killing the girls methodically. So girls stuck in house. The killer is in the house with them. You are stuck in a house too, like the girls in the movie! Let’s just say by the time it’s over, you’ll take that corner into the kitchen a little bit more cautiously.