Tuesday 11 December 2018

Top 10 Winter Horror Films

Bloodstains show up the clearest on a crisp, cold, carpet of pure white snow. Perhaps this is the reason why so many horror directors tangle with our fears by setting their genre films in the dead of winter, when the nights are long and the cruel weather is unforgiving to those who stray outside for too long. Here are ten chilling films taking place during our coldest season that might just leave you frozen in fear:

10. 30 Days of Night

This vampire film came along when comic book adaptations were surging in popularity, and was perceived by many be an improvement its sourcematerial. When an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for 30 days during the winter, its inhabitants are attacked by a brutal gang of bloodthirsty vampires. Unable to escape due to the deadly creatures that lurk outside and the oppressive weather that isolates the town from the outside world, the survivors are forced to band together to make it through the ordeal in one piece. This is not the only horror film to combine cold weather with vampires to great effect, the chilling weather seems to be the perfect setting for blood-sucking creatures who shy away from the sunshine - as you will see further down the list - and whilst it is no classic, 30 Days of Night is still an entertaining ride from start to finish.

9. Frozen

Not to be confused with the Walt Disney film which unleashed Let it Go on the world, this Frozen is an altogether scarier ride. When three thrill-seeking youngsters get trapped at the top of a ski-lift, the perils of the cold weather are not the only danger they encounter. As night begins to draw in they are hounded by a group of hungry wolves that make escape seem impossible, and with the ski resort closed for the weekend it seems unlikely that the trio will be rescued any time soon. Stranded high up in the mountainside in freezing weather, it is not long before the icy temperature begins to take its toll with some of the skiers even becoming frozen to the ski lift. An original and inventive horror, Frozen proves that low budget films based in one unique setting can still be the perfect opportunity for a thrilling suspense ride.

8. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead

Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead is that rarest of films; a horror sequel that manages to surpass the original as well as being one of the standout horrors of 2014. Treading the fine line between horror and comedy to great effect, Dead Snow 2 begins right where the first one ends, with a decapitated zombie arm being accidentally reattached to an arm-less survivor of the first film. Pushing the limits of bad taste to the extreme with its tongue in cheek humour reminiscent of that used in Peter Jackson's early outings in the genre, Bad Taste and Braindead, this is one of the finest zombie comedies of recent years. Whilst Dead Snow 2 spends far less time in the frosty mountains of Norway than Tommy Wirkola's first outing with the undead nazi hordes, the setting is still used to maximum effect, making this a must see for horror fans during the winter months.

7. Misery

A common theme throughout this list; Misery is another film that uses the snowy surroundings to represent the isolation and helplessness of its protagonist. This time it is a famous writer who is up against the elements when he swerves off an icy road during a blizzard and is rescued by his number one fan. Relief soon turns to fear when he discovers that he is being held captive. Unable to move due to his injuries, Paul Sheldon is at the mercy of his captor who drugs him and forces him to rewrite one of his novels. The first of two Stephen King adaptations to feature in this list, Misery is a taut psychological thriller, famous for its graphic depiction of a certain act of cruelty that will leave all but the most hardened of viewers reeling in shock.

6. Trollhunter

One of Norway's most popular horror exports garnered a cult following when it first hit the festival circuit, with its breathtakingly impressive effects enhancing an inspired take on the found footage genre. Trollhunter features a camera crew who are investigating a string of mysterious bear killings only to discover that there is something far more sinister occurring in the Norwegian wilderness. Although some of the humour may be lost in translation, the film still holds up remarkably well for those who aren't well versed in Norwegian folklore. Alongside the nail-bitingly tense scenes where the danger is hidden off screen there are also a number of awe-inspiring shots that showcase the trolls in all of their glory, with the effects making them appear as real as the enchanting snowy scenery they inhabit.

5. Gremlins

Gremlins may be more of a comedy than a horror, but it certainly isn't a film that you would let a child watch, as my parents discovered when it frightened me half to death as a young toddler! When the Gremlins are unintentionally unleashed on a small town during Christmas, we are treated to some hilariously unforgettable moments such as a brilliant scene where an old lady makes the mistake of opening her door to a rather strange sounding group of carol singers. Christmas wouldn't be the same without watching Gremlins, with the snowy setting making it perfect for winter viewing and the twisted humour offering the perfect alternative to the traditional Christmas films that are all the rage at this time of year.

4. Kwaidan

With the resurgence in Japanese horror at the turn of the 21st Century, it is easy to overlook the classics that influenced generations of film-makers, and Kwaidan's hauntingly beautiful stories remain as important as they were back in 1966 when it received an Oscar Nomination for the Best Foreign Language film. Only one of the four stories contained within the film takes place in snowy surroundings, but The Woman in the Snow is a fascinating short story and the entire film deserves to be seen by every horror fan. The story in question follows a woodcutter on the verge of death as he encounters a spirit who will keep him alive in exchange for his secrecy. Years later he forgets his promise and this mistake ends up costing him dearly. This macabre ghost tale will certainly remind you why the Japanese have had a long standing affinity with the horror genre.

3. Let the Right one In

Once again we return to vampires in snowy surroundings for this subtle Swedish horror that took everyone by surprise back in 2009. Let the Right One In follows the relationship between a young boy and a girl as one struggles to deal with the present, whilst the other hides dark secrets in their past. Although the film is not completely faithful to the source material, choosing to omit some of the more unpleasant incidents, it is still a superb adaptation, with a breathtaking scene set in a swimming pool that is guaranteed to leave you gasping for air. The captivating cinematography provides us with a mesmerising view of the cold winter nights and there are also stark moments of brutality that serve to remind us that ever since Nosferatu graced the silver screen, vampires will always be a part of our nightmares.

2. The Thing

Not to be confused with the similarly titled prequel from 2011, John Carpenter's standout film still remains the best adaptation of John W Campbell's story Who goes there?. Howard Hawks version of the story filmed in 1951 is also well worth a watch, despite the dated effects that cannot compare to the gruesome imagery Carpenter used to instill fear into an entire generation of horror fans. Set in and around an Antarctic research station, The Thing features an all male cast who encounter a mysterious object of unknown origins buried deep beneath the ice. In what is one of the best horror films of the eighties, all hell then breaks loose as it transpires that the research team have brought a shape-shifting creature back into their base, and no-one knows who has been in contact with the strange life-form or what it is capable of. Forget the prequel and go straight to Carpenter's classic - the hostile setting of the antarctic has never been put to a better use in film.

1.The Shining

No other director mastered as many genres as the almighty Stanley Kubrick, and his horror masterpiece The Shining is a perfect example of a technically brilliant director at the height of his game. Famously shunned by Stephen King for not being faithful to his source material, The Shining takes place in the vacant Overlook Hotel when the Torrance family take up residence as caretakers and become isolated due to increasingly bad weather that engulfs the area, quickly surrounding the hotel in deep layers of snow. Jack Nicholson has never been more terrifying as Jack Torrance, and although the child actor who played Danny Torrance has never acted again, his performance in The Shining will surely never be forgotten.This is easily one of the most terrifying films ever to be made that takes place in a snowy environment, with the climatic chase through the hedge maze still capable of leaving audiences frozen to their seats in terror.

What is your favourite winter horror film? Are there any films I have missed from my list? Let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @filmbantha

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