We’re getting to the halfway point of 2019. While this year has been quite promising for horror fans and will continue to be with the release of IT Chapter Two coming out this September, I have yet to see a film quite like WINTERSKIN. I also wasn’t expecting this to be creature feature with components of Stockholm syndrome built into it. This film opens up with one of the bloodiest film intros I’ve seen in an indie film in the past two years. We’re talking Baskin levels of gore here. This was a perfect homage to 80’s slashers and creature features. However, I don’t believe they were trying to accomplish an 80’s horror aesthetic.
This leads into the introduction of our primary character Billy Cavanagh (David Lenik) who, while hunting deer in the woods with his father, is shot and injured after being separated from his father, Russel Cavanagh (Peter Cosgrove). Billy awakens inside of an old cabin he had stumbled upon just moments before being shot. This is where we meet Agnes (Rowena Bentley) an old woman that lives alone (well, with her doggo) in a remote cabin in the woods.
Rowena’s performance as Agnes contributed an incredible strength to the film and truly made me believe she may actually be mad. This also played as a major contribution to some of the seriously messed up stuff that happens in this film. I couldn’t and wouldn’t trust Agnes. Something about her seemed off to me from the moment Billy awoke in her cabin. We do continue to see a growing distrust between Billy and Agnes, which is totally justifiable and understandable as the film progresses.
Another major player in this film was the effects. The practical effects were incredibly visually appealing. This is coming from someone who heavily indulges in 80’s splatter films. From skinless individuals to a scene involving an animal carcass, this movie kept me guessing and wondering if there was ever going to be a point where these effects would look “hokey”. That’s where the cinematography comes in. The camera work plays so well as we get into the more disgusting scenes. It shows you just enough to keep a very intense scene intense without giving a “creature” too much screen time, thus making it look “dumb” or “cheesy”.
This storyline probably could have played out in a city setting or even somewhere in the desert. However, writer and director Charlie Steeds deliberately chose to place this film in the snow-filled wood. Due to the setting, I was almost anticipating a ton of Evil Dead callbacks but I couldn’t find a single one. The powder white setting with blistering storms worked as well in 2019 as it did back in 1982 in John Carpenter’s The Thing. This helped build onto the already existing tension tremendously and I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much in another setting.
If there was a way to properly describe WINTERSKIN, I’d say it’s a melting pot that incorporates elements of Misery and Hellraiser with a few other bits and pieces reminiscent of other 80’s horror films. This film plays heavy on the gore. It’s gratuitous and may not be a favorite for a lot of people. However, if you’re like me and love “splatter” or “gore” films, you’ll most definitely find yourself enjoying WINTERSKIN. I can easily say this movie is for fans of Italian horror masters such as Fulci, Argento or (Lamberto) Bava.
This film appears to follow in pattern with other films by Charlie Steeds such as Deadman Apocalypse and Escape from Cannibal Farm. Something heavy in effects and gore and actually fucking scary! If you find yourself stumbling across WINTERSKIN, don’t hesitate to give it a watch. You’ll want to catch this before it becomes a cult classic and before it gets posted in horror forums, thus spoiling the movie for you.
Stay haunted, homies