Something about the newly dark nights drawing in and the world turning cold and frosty outside puts me in the mood to snuggle up under a blanket or three in my safe warm(ish) house and settle in for a winter horror movie marathon. Especially those films where the cold winter landscape of ice and snow itself is a big part of what makes it scary. From classics like The Shining to lesser known gems get ready to cosy up with some of my favourite wintery horror movies. I hope you enjoy.
The best winter horror movies to keep you on the edge of your seat this winter:
Note: Minor spoilers ahead!
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Let’s start with an all time classic John Carpenter’s The Thing. Set in Antarctica, The Thing follows a group of researchers who become trapped in an Antarctic research facility as they are terrorized by a shape-shifting creature that has been discovered in the ice. As the monster picks off the team one by one, the survivors must find a way to stop it before it’s too late.
The Thing is considered a classic of the horror genre and has gained a cult following over the years due in large part to the special effects which have been widely praised by critics and fans. The film’s visual effects were created by a team led by Rob Bottin, who used a combination of practical and mechanical effects to bring the shape-shifting creature to life.
One of the most memorable and iconic special effects in The Thing are the grotesque transformation sequences, in which the creature assimilates and imitates other living organisms. These sequences are highly detailed and elaborate, and involve a combination of makeup, puppetry, and mechanical effects to create the appearance of the alien’s body contorting and changing shape.
The Shining directed by Stanley Kubrick is based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Stephen King. This classic horror film follows Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic, as he takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. As the snow piles up outside, Jack becomes increasingly unstable and paranoid, terrorizing his family as he descends into madness.
In The Shining, the weather is used to build tension by creating a sense of isolation and confinement. The movie takes place at an isolated mountain resort, and the weather is often depicted as being cold, snowy, and treacherous, which makes it difficult for the characters to leave the hotel and makes them feel cut off from the rest of the world. The weather also reflects the psychological state of the characters, with the blizzard outside mirroring the turmoil and chaos inside the hotel. Finally, the weather is used to create a sense of unease and foreboding, with the characters frequently experiencing strange and unsettling events when the weather is at its worst.
Stephen King has publicly expressed his dislike of the film adaptation. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, King stated that he was “disappointed with the end result” of the film and that he felt that it “missed the point” of his book.
Despite King’s criticisms, The Shining film adaptation has been highly acclaimed by critics and has gained a cult following, and is considered a classic of horror cinema. Personally I have enjoyed both the book and the film and have found them to be successful in their own ways. Although the book does hold a soft spot in my heart as one of the first horror novels that ever truly scared the living shit out of me as a kid (who really really shouldn’t have been reading it!)
30 Days of Night
Based on the comic book miniseries of the same name 30 Days of Night featuring Josh Hartnett (meh) and Melissa George (yay) takes place in the small Alaskan town of Barrow, which experiences 30 consecutive days of darkness during the winter. As the town is plunged into darkness, a group of vampires descends upon the town, causing chaos, bloodshed and buckets of gore. Basically no daylight for thirty days. Good news for vampires!
30 Days of Night also features in my best creature features of the noughties list if this kind of vibe floats your boat.
But it’s not all gore and fangs. There’s some real tension here, too. The feeling of isolation in a desolate town besieged by bloodthirsty vampires is enough to make you jump at the slightest sound. The suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Now, I won’t pretend this is a deep philosophical film. It’s not trying to be. It’s a no-nonsense, let’s see how many ways we can slay vampires in the dark kind of movie, and it excels at it. It’s got that classic horror movie vibe where you’ll be shouting at the screen, “Don’t go in there!” and “RUN!” But of course, they never listen.
The Lodge is a 2019 horror film directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. The film follows a young woman, Grace Marshall (played by Riley Keough), who becomes stranded over Christmas with her fiancé’s two children at the family’s remote holiday lodge. This is somewhat awkward as the children’s mother had taken her own life after their father, played by Richard Armitage, informed her he planned to marry Grace, a woman he’d met while researching a creepy extremist cult for his latest book. Grace was the sole survivor of their mass suicide. (Cool, cool, nothing to see here).
The idea is that they all get to know each other better…. it does not go well.
As a blizzard cuts off communication with the outside world, strange and unsettling events begin to occur and Grace starts to suspect that there may be a sinister force at work (or is she losing her mind!).
In the mood for some old school bat-shit slasher shenanigans? Curtains may be for you. Curtains is a 1983 Canadian slasher film which follows a group of actresses auditioning for the lead role in a new horror film who become trapped in a creepy old mansion. There they are stalked by a masked killer.
Curtains has developed a cult following over the years due to its combination of gore and humour, as well as its self-aware meta approach to horror and campy tone. The setting, a mansion covered in snow, adds a layer of isolation that intensifies the fear factor. The film’s suspenseful atmosphere is punctuated by some memorable death scenes that are both gruesome and inventive. The ice skating sequence, in particular, is a standout moment that will make you think twice about gliding across frozen ponds.
Moreover, the troubled production history and multiple directorial changes contribute to a final product that was significantly altered from the initial concept, leaving audiences with a surreal and sometimes disjointed viewing experience. This unintended complexity has endeared Curtains to fans of cult cinema who appreciate its offbeat charm.
Snowpiercer is not strictly horror but I’m guessing if you’re reading this list you’ll be in to it. Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Snowpiercer is set in a future where a failed experiment to stop global warming has plunged the Earth into a new ice age, and all surviving humans live on a massive, perpetually moving train that circles the globe. The film follows a rebellion to overthrow the oppressive class system on the train and bring equality to all passengers. Overall, Snowpiercer offers a really unique and imaginative take on the post-apocalyptic genre with excellent action sequences and well-developed world-building.
Netflix also made a pretty decent Snowpiercer T.V series – you can watch here if you don’t have Netflix (but watch the film first!)
Werewolves within is a horror comedy, which is not always my fav genre, but was fun to watch with non-horror loving friends. The Netflix film is an adaptation of the video game of the same name, and follows a group of people who are trapped in a small town in Vermont who must uncover the identity of the werewolf among them, while they also confront their own secrets and prejudices.
If you don’t have Netflix you can grab a copy on Amazon and even better I get paid Yippee!
Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In is an absolute classic. Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The film follows the relationship between a bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar and a mysterious girl named Eli, who moves into his apartment building with her father. As Oskar and Eli become closer, he begins to suspect that she is a vampire and that her father is covering up a series of murders in the area.
Let the Right One In is a unique and atmospheric film that explores themes of love, friendship, and loyalty in the midst of horror and violence. It was followed by an American remake, titled Let Me In, in 2010 (also surprisingly good).
Cold Prey is a Norwegian slasher film that follows a group of friends who become stranded in an abandoned ski resort in the mountains after their snowmobile breaks down. As they try to find a way to get help, they are stalked and killed by a mysterious and violent killer.
The film’s isolated mountain setting and bleak winter landscape create a tense and atmospheric feel, and the use of practical effects and cinematography helps to further enhance the suspense. The performances of the cast are also strong, particularly Berdal’s portrayal of the resourceful and determined protagonist Jannicke. Overall, Cold Prey is a solid entry in the slasher genre and is a must-see for fans of horror.
Misery is a psychological horror film based on the novel by Stephen King featuring Paul Sheldon a popular romance writer who, after a bad car accident, finds himself in the clutches of his highly unstable (read batshit crazy) fan Annie Wilkes. The 1990 film adaptation (full review) is excellent with Kathy Bates winning a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
I love the book and the film equally but honestly “that” scene – if you know, you know – in the film just edges it for me. And Kathy Bayes and James Caan are bloody brilliant in it. I can’t imagine better casting.
Another snowy Norwegian horror film! This horror comedy follows a group of medical students who travel to a remote cabin in the mountains for a winter getaway. When they become stranded and are attacked by a group of Nazi zombies (yep Nazi Zombies!) the students must fight for their lives in order to survive. Dead Snow is considered a cult classic for its mix of gore, humour, and over-the-top action, and for its creative and entertaining use of the zombie genre.
The Grey is a 2011 effective slow burner survival film starring Liam Neeson. The film follows a group of oil drillers who survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness and must find their way back to civilization while being hunted by a pack of wolves. As they struggle to survive the harsh elements and their own personal demons, they are forced to confront the harsh realities of life and death.
Frozen (definitely don’t show this Frozen to your kids) follows a group of friends who become stranded on a ski lift in the mountains during a snowstorm, and must fight to survive against the elements and a pack of hungry wolves that are stalking them.
The film is notable for its use of practical effects and its depiction of the harsh realities of survival in the wilderness and THAT scene with the tongue. You’ll know it if you’ve seen it.
The Revenant is more of survival drama that strict horror. Based on the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is left for dead in the wilderness after being attacked by a grizzly bear and must navigate a harsh and unforgiving landscape in order to survive. I’m including it in this list for that scene with the bear alone. Jeez!
Not a film but an excellent tv show The Terror is a horror drama television series based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Dan Simmons. The series is set in the 1840s and follows the story of the Franklin expedition, a British naval voyage to the Arctic that becomes stranded in the ice and is beset by supernatural and mysterious threats.
The Terror is a big budget blend of historical fiction and horror, and features a mix of real-life and fictional characters. The show received positive reviews for its atmospheric and immersive production design, its performances, and its blend of horror and drama. It aired for two seasons, with the first season focusing on the Franklin expedition and the second season following a different historical event, the Japanese-American internment during World War II, with a new cast and storyline.
And bonus points if you fancy something bonkers try out Fortitude. Set in the fictional Arctic town of Fortitude the most northerly town in the world, and the most peaceful – until a prominent member of the community is found eviscerated in his own home, and suddenly the town’s sheriff has his first ever murder to investigate. Fortitude then heads in some truly weird directions (so of course I love it!).
Fortitude features an ensemble cast, including Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci, and Sofie Gråbøl, and is known for its atmospheric and moody tone, as well as its complex and layered storytelling. The show received positive reviews for its performances, production values, and its ability to blend elements of crime, drama, and horror. It aired for three seasons, with each season focusing on a different murder investigation in the town of Fortitude.
The first series was excellent then (in my humble opinion anyway) provided some diminishing returns (but still good.) Actually there’s lots of good wintery tv now I come to think of it. Perhaps a list for another day.
I hope you enjoyed this list and maybe stumbled across a few new films to try. As ever if you have any suggestions feel free to add them to the comments. I’m always on the hunt for new horror films to watch!