Here we are in January, that limbo time of year between the holidays and Spring Training. We grudgingly venture outside into the cold; see the grey skies, the dead trees, and think, what a perfect setting for a horror movie! In the movies below, the cold, snowy settings are integral to the plot, contributing to other kinds of chills.
These films owe at least part of their sense of dread to the bleakness of winter. So, sit back and enjoy. Before global warming makes the point moot.
30 Days of Night (2007) – Barrow, Alaska, is the bleak setting for this movie starring Josh Hartnett as Eben Oleson. Eben is the sheriff of this isolated town, nearly depleted of its population during the month each winter that the sun doesn’t rise. The small group of citizens who remain are the hardiest of the hardy, but that doesn’t save them. The savage creatures who have come to feed have made certain that there would be no avenue of escape.
I love the poster for this movie; I have it hanging in my home.
Cold Prey (Fritt vilt) (2006) – A group of 20-somethings drive to a mountain for a day of snowboarding in the Norwegian version of the middle of nowhere, which is the same as the American version, only colder and snowier. One of them breaks his leg, and they must find shelter as soon as possible. They manage to get their injured friend to a nearby hotel that has been abandoned. Or, so they think.
Let the Right One In (2008) – Set in Sweden, this movie centers around Oskar, a lonely boy who’s tormented by bullies at his school. One evening some new residents move into Oskar's apartment complex—a man and a girl, Eli. She and Oskar soon become friends. We begin to suspect that there’s more to Eli than meets the eye, though, when we see her playing outside in the snow, barefoot, oblivious to the cold. And the bloody scenes in this movie seem that much more graphic when seen against the purity of the white snow.
Dead End (2003) – What a great cast this movie has! Ray Wise plays the father who’s driving his family to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and impulsively decides to take a short cut. They see a young woman dressed in white standing next to the road, carrying a baby bundled in a blanket. Not realizing they’re in a horror movie, they stop to help, thereby setting into motion a terrible and inexorable chain of events. What makes this movie special is the effort made to introduce us to each character, so we really care about what happens to them. The touches of black humor don’t hurt, either. And isn’t black humor the very best kind?
Frozen (2010) – More than any of the other movies on this list, the weather is the enemy here. Watching Frozen makes you want to turn up your thermostat. Dan, Lynch, and Parker (Lynch? Parker?) are on a snowboarding trip. Lynch is less than thrilled about Dan’s girlfriend, Parker, tagging along on their guys’ vacation and isn’t shy about sharing his feelings. They cajole the lift operator into letting them go up for one last run, and the lift is accidentally shut off, leaving the trio is dangling in mid-air. A horror movie that takes place in a ski lift: doesn’t sound too scary, does it? Especially compared to the slasher gore in Hatchet, another Adam Green movie. Yet this simple set-up draws us in. How can they get down? How long can they survive the frigid temperatures? What would we do in their places? Their choices are extremely limited, and the night grows ever colder.
The Thing (1982) –Based upon legendary science fiction writer John W. Campbell’s short story, “Who Goes There?” The Thing takes place at a scientific research station in the frigid Antarctic. One night, the quiet of the setting is shattered by the explosion of a Norwegian helicopter, which had been inexplicably chasing a dog. Unbeknownst to the scientists, the dog has been assimilated by an alien life form whose only goal is to possess as many other living things as possible. The men soon realize that any one of them might be no more than a homicidal monster wearing a man suit. The problem (well, one of the problems) is that they’re trapped together inside this small research facility, as isolated by the weather as surely as if they were on the moon.
In these movies, the weather proves to be as malignant as whatever killer they’re facing. In some of the movies, the weather IS the enemy. As if these characters don’t have enough problems without worrying about freezing to death! Even if you don’t hate the cold as much as I do, it’ll kill you just as dead. Let’s face it: sometimes Mother Nature can be a real bitch.