[review by JA Kerswell]
|There's gore galore in Robert Rice's slasher/action thriller mashup DEAD OF WINTER.
Not to be confused with the 1987 movie of the same name, DEAD OF WINTER melds the tropes of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) and some elements of the slasher movie to good effect (enough for it to be included here). Evocatively filmed in the snowy wastes of Parry Sound, Ontario (standing in for the mooted Colorado and continuing the grand tradition of Canadian productions passing themselves off as being from the United States), a group of geo-cachers competing for a $25,000 prize find themselves hunted by a madman intent on revenge.
Damon (John Garber), a down-on-his-luck ex-con, is persuaded to get out of his rut by his sister (Jodie Dowdall) and get back to work. His first gig is taking a disparate group of geo-cachers out deep into the winter wilderness where he used to hunt with his father when he was a boy. The group include wisecracking chunk Bradik (James Wallis), lesbian partners Lindsay (Holly Uloth) and Rachel (Allison Dawn Doiron), aloof older guy Ben (John Boylan) and the gutsy Eve (Lisa Marcos) amongst others.
After a long bus journey, where the contestants bicker and goad each other, they eventually reach their destination and start the competition whilst Damon remains with the bus. However, tragedy strikes when one of their number is gorily decapitated in what at first appears to be a freak accident. The group returns to the bus with the body only for it to suddenly explode before they can leave. They realise they have no choice but to hike through the inhospitable landscape to the nearest town, but the elements aren’t the only threat they face as their numbers begin to drop one-by-one …
|DEAD OF WINTER makes the most of its spectacular snowy backdrops.
Robert Rice’s DEAD OF WINTER benefits from good performances from its small band of actors - especially Garber as the brooding hero of the piece. However, the writing is sometimes inconsistent; with characters making odd decisions such as quickly getting over the violent death of a loved one. The film also has a curious attitude to its lesbian couple - with them spending the first half of the movie being berated and teased by Bradik, as he acts like a buffoon. Sudden events in the movie mean that this is never really resolved except for the Bradik character unexpectedly stepping up into a semi-heroic role.
The real star of the movie is the stunning snowy backdrop - with some stunning cinematography. The cast does look like they are genuinely freezing their asses off; which adds to the authenticity. There is something about snowbound slashers that ticks all the boxes and Canada and brings to mind the chilly atmosphere of Canuck films such as GHOSTKEEPER(1981) and CURTAINS (1983).
DEAD OF WINTER admittedly suffers from a few budgetary problems - most noticeably some iffy CGI that only serve to take the viewer out of the action. The killer’s motivation is solid if a little muddy around the edges, and I was left a little confused on a one-time watch with some plot points. Although that could resolved with another viewing perhaps.
As I mentioned, the film has enough in common to be tangentially associated with the slasher movie - including gory deaths and a one-by-one body count at the hands of a mysterious killer. However, as the film reaches its conclusion it morphs into more action/revenge territory.
Still, if you fancy some snowy thrills you could do a lot worse than DEAD OF WINTER.
female: 2 / male: 6
1) Male killed with wolves (off screen)
2) Male decapitated with snapped cable
3) Female dismembered by trap
4) Female killed by blocked tracheotomy wound
5) Male shot in the chest
6) Male shot in the head
7) Male shot dead
8) Male has neck broken
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