The weather outside is frightful. In honor of this frosty time o' year, let's come in outta the cold, thaw out by a nice fire, and get the blood pumpin' with some bone-chilling horror films. I surveyed over five billion people, and using an equation only the world’s top scientists can comprehend, I arrived at the following list of the top fifteen wintery films that use snow, ice, and/or plummeting temperatures to ramp up the atmosphere, peril, and/or terror. They are listed in order of release.
Curse Of The Cat People (1944)
Directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise.
An imaginative child, Amy, has either conjured an imaginary friend or has befriended the ghost of her father's deceased first wife. This beautifully shot film was the directorial debut of Robert Wise. He had been the editor on Citizen Kane (1941), and he would go on to direct The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), The Haunting (1963), The Sound Of Music (1965), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
The Thing From Another World (1951)
Directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks.
Scientists and American Air Force officials battle against a blood-thirsty alien at a remote arctic outpost after discovering the alien's craft buried in the ice. The film is based on the story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. A first-rate remake followed in 1982... and another, this time disastrous remake stumbled out in 2011.
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi.
Stranded in a snowstorm, a woodcutter encounters a deadly ice spirit. The frosty woman spares his life on the condition that he never tells anyone about her. This is one of four tales assembled in this visually spectacular anthology film.
Black Christmas (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark.
During Christmas break, a sorority house is terrorized by a murderer who excels at making creepy phone calls. Director Clark went on to gift us more (non-horror) seasonal shenanigans with A Christmas Story (1983). Watch 'em both as a holiday double feature. I triple-dog-dare ya.
The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Jack Torrance and his family hunker down for the winter at the isolated Overlook Hotel where an evil presence slowly drives Jack insane. The snowy hedge maze at the end of this Stephen King adaptation was built on a toasty indoor set, and what looks chilly on screen was actually quite warm.
The Thing (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter.
Scientists in the Antarctic are terrorized by an alien that assimilates the beings it kills. This remake of The Thing From Another World, featuring an all-male cast, is considered a must-see horror classic, even though it bombed at the box office upon initial release.
The Dead Zone (1983)
Directed by David Cronenberg.
A man wakes from a coma and discovers he has gained psychic powers. Another Stephen King adaptation, The Dead Zone was Cronenberg's first foray into bigger-budgeted films with major studio support. Though his career would never fully go mainstream, Cronenberg was at various points courted to direct high-profile Hollywood films such as Return Of The Jedi (1983), Top Gun (1986), RoboCop (1987), and Total Recall (1990).
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Years after his parents are murdered by a man in a Santa suit, an unbalanced teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa. Siskel and Ebert famously condemned the movie - actually announcing the film's creators one by one on the air, and saying "shame, shame" after each name!
Directed by Antonia Bird.
During the Mexican-American War, a captain's promotion brings him to a fort where a rescued, frostbitten stranger spins a disturbing tale of cannibalism. Original director Milcho Manchevski must have left the producers cold, because he was replaced by Antonia Bird two weeks into shooting.
Directed by Larry Fessenden.
A photographer and his family, vacationing in snow-blanketed upstate New York, first fear the volatile local rednecks. Then an even more sinister presence invades. This film stars child actor Erik Per Sullivan, who at the time of the movie's release was becoming famous as Dewey in Fox's Malcolm In The Middle.
Cold Prey (2006)
Directed by Roar Uthaug.
A snowboarding vacation leads five friends to take shelter in an abandoned hotel where they end up fighting for their lives. This acclaimed Norwegian slasher film was shot on location in the mountains, where terrain, weather, and painfully low temperatures caused the production to move at a snail's pace. It reportedly took two years to shoot the movie.
The Last Winter (2006)
Directed by Larry Fessenden.
In Northern Alaska, an oil company's advance team becomes trapped at their remote base after one team member is found dead, and a bizarre disorientation slowly claims the sanity of the others. The movie was shot on location in bitterly cold Alaska and Iceland. Fessenden is the only director with two films on this list. He must really have a thing for uncomfortably cold shooting conditions.
Let The Right One In (2008)
Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
A young boy who is often bullied finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire. This Swedish film spawned a surprisingly good American remake, Let Me In (2010), directed by Matt Reeves.
Dead Snow (2009)
Directed by Tommy Wirkola.
A ski vacation turns into a nightmare as a group of medical students confront a horde of Nazi zombies. This Norwegian horror/comedy film has a sequel coming in 2014, also directed by Wirkola.
Directed by Adam Green.
Skiers stranded on a chairlift are forced to make life-or-death choices before they freeze to death. The movie was shot without sound stages, green screens, or CGI trickery. The actors were actually suspended more than fifty feet in the air while shooting on location on the side of a snowy mountain in Utah.
Thanks for reading. Stay warm.
- Eric Stanze