Welcome to first HORROR ADVENT special, a new series on this website where, in the month of December, we’ll explore different Top 10s related to Christmas and winter in general. To get in the mood, you know.
As the self-explanatory title says, this article will feature 10 chilling horror movies. The best ones ever? Not necessarily, these are just 10 horror movies set in snow that I really love and wanted to share with you people. A few rules: very popular movies (like The Children and 30 Days of Night) and classics like The Thing and Let the Right One In will not be included, since my aim with articles of this ilk is to introduce people to movies they might not have seen. Yet, Christmas-related horror classics will be excluded too, because they might be featured in future articles in the HORROR ADVENT series…
I’m sure I’ll get a few comments complaining that I didn’t include stuff like Krampus and Gremlins because some people don’t read intros, but at least most of you know what to expect from this list! Without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at some of the best chilling horror movies, in alphabetical order.
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The Abominable Snowman (UK, 1957) – In this forgotten monster movie, perennial Hammer hero Peter Cushing tracks down the Yeti in the Himalayan Mountains, despite the warnings of locals. While not perfect (there are some pretty amateur continuity and editing errors), The Abominable Snowman stands out in the Hammer catalogue due to its black and white presentation, off-beat approach and grounded execution. My favourite aspect of the movie, and the reason why it’s on this list, is that the snow setting gives the film a feeling of isolation that invokes constant fear. It’s as though our main character can rely only on himself to survive and, if something goes wrong, it’ll be the end for him.
Blood Glacier (Austria, 2013) – Another imperfect crowd-pleaser, Blutgletscher is a more recent horror movie set – of course – around a glacier leaking a liquid that appears to be affecting local wildlife: a group of scientists must find out what the liquid is and survive the blood-thirsty monsters created by it. Distributed by IFC Midnight in the United States under the title Blood Glacier, this Austrian horror film is gory, exciting and filled with amazing practical effects. Critics panned the movie due to poor character development and character choices; audiences didn’t like its obvious “rip-off” of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Personally, I think isolated setting, creative creature-design and awesome gore make up for the movie’s flaws.
Dead Snow (Norway, 2009) – Unlike the previous title, the Norwegian horror-comedy Dead Snow was a success with both critics and audience members, and it’s developed a cult-following ever since it came out. For good reasons. This movie about a group of medical students being eaten alive by Nazi zombies is a great homage to 50s B-movies and exploitation flicks at the same time. It’s clever and self-aware, gory and entertaining, filled with smart spins of 80s pop-culture references.
Devil Times Five (USA, 1974) – If you like movies about creepy kids, you will love the sociopaths in Devil Times Five. This exploitation-esque horror film centres around five killer kids who, after escaping from the care of a psychiatric facility, make their way to a cabin in the woods, where they play sadistic, deadly games with the occupants. Considered very controversial for what child actors had to do and say during filming, this little horror gem is brutal, twisted and quite intense. Between some bad performances and a few continuity errors, Devil Times Five is a rather flawed picture. However, scenes like the bathtub moment and the “flesh-and-blood snowman” are truly memorable and, to me, they make up for the movie’s shortcomings.
Frostbitten (Sweden, 2006) – Fans of 30 Days of Night are advised to put their hands on this movie, which heavily inspired the 2007 movie starring Josh Hartnett. The story is, in fact, almost the same: a town in northern Sweden where the sun won’t rise for one month is terrorised by vampires… the only difference is that these vampires are created by mistake with a virus. Oh, and this is a horror-comedy, unlike its American counterpart. However, expect the comedy to be pitch black, with inappropriate jokes about Nazism, kids and women. This movie isn’t properly scary – unless you get scared easily – but it’s quite gory and really, really entertaining. Aside from some bad performances and one or two plot conveniences, Frostbitten is an amazing watch.
Ghostkeeper (Canada, 1981) – If you like 80s horror where slasher and supernatural elements come together, Ghostkeeper might be a movie to look for. This film follows three friends on a snowmobiling trip who find themselves stranded at an abandoned lodge isolated in the mountains: they soon discover a strange woman lives there, along with something else that she keeps locked in the basement. Ghostkeeper relies on fantastic sets and truly chilling atmosphere, which is why I included it on this list. The music, which sounds similar to the score of Prom Night since these two flicks share the same composer, is wonderfully creepy and eerie. In general, Ghostkeeper is quite unsettling and, in a couple of sequences, rather brutal. The lack of an interesting storyline and the tepid reveal at the end might put some viewers off, though. So, give this movie a chance only if atmosphere matters above all else for you.
Kwaidan (Japan, 1964) – Out of the movies mentioned in this article, this is the one I can recommend to anyone with no doubts. Kwaidan is a 3-hour-long horror anthology of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes, all directed by the same guy. I watched Kwaidan for the first time for this article and I was blown away by it: this is probably the best horror anthology I’ve seen and it can easily become one of my favourite horror films. This movie won the Jury Special Prize at Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Foreign Feature at the Oscars in 1964. This masterpiece is artfully presented and filmed, captivating in its storytelling, diversified in the stories it tells and just unique and beautiful. Do yourself a favour and watch it as soon as you can!
The Last Winter (USA, 2006) – Directed by Larry Fessenden, this psychological horror film is something you’ll either love or hate. Guaranteed. In the Arctic region of Northern Alaska, an oil company’s advance team struggles to establish a drilling base that will forever alter the pristine land. After one team member is found dead, disorientation slowly claims the sanity of the others as each of them succumbs to a mysterious fear. The Last Winter has a lot more going on than meets the eye: very well-directed and thoughtfully-shot, this is a movie that oozes with atmosphere are unsettling moments. However, it’s a film that demands a lot from the audience, as many questions are left unanswered – I mean, you can find the answer if you look close enough – and the open ending, perfect for this kind of movies, will make some people very frustrated. If you like psychological horror films with profound themes, don’t look any further though.
The Snow Woman (Japan, 1968) – The second Japanese entry in this article is, most likely, the hardest one to sell. The Snow Woman is a horror-romance that centres around a master sculptor and his young apprentice, whose lives are changed forever when they meet an evil witch spawned from a snow storm. Creepy and atmospheric, this is also a very artsy film with great makeup and set-design. It’s a horror folktale with very few elements to complain about, so if you like 60s and 70s Japanese cinema you should definitely check it out.
The Weather Station (Russia, 2011) – Last but not least, this layered Russian horror-thriller unfolds in two separate timelines: one revolves around a group of meteorologists at a remote weather station encountering a pair or strangers, the other about two detectives trying to determine what happened to the now-missing meteorologists. The strongest aspect of this film is its mystery and the expert narrative that leads the audience to the big reveal at the end of the movie. The Weather Station feels like one of the early movies by Christopher Nolan, with the horror/scary element as the cherry on top. Aside from some instances of bad acting and lazy character choices, The Weather Station is something thriller enthusiasts would enjoy for sure.
Out of these 10 films, which ones tickled your curiosity the most? Have you seen any of them? Did you get a kick out of watching them as I did? Please, let me know if I missed out on any title that would fit in a 10 BEST Chilling Horror Movies list!
Get a copy of the movies mentioned in this review*:
*The Snow Woman and The Weather Station are available with English subtitles only on Vimeo and iTunes.
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