LADY SNOW BLOOD: 11(+) Horror Films for Winter (with female leads, naturally!)
Most or all of these movies (with one exception) feature female lead characters battling serial killers or other harbingers of death in subzero temperatures. Not all of them are Christmas themed, but many evoke that most wonderful time of the year when any blood spilled can’t hide in the dark. The snow carries clear signs of the horror that unfolds.
Black Christmas (1974/2006): Sorority girls stalked and killed by a mysterious killer. While the original is a slasher classic and one that defined the genre 4 years before it blew up, the remake is a fun and very loose adaptation where much more blood is splattered to utilize the season.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972): Mary Woronov leads this cult film laced with Warhol superstars but played completely straight about a “a series of murders that occur in a small town on Christmas Eve after a man inherits a family estate which was once an insane asylum.”
The Shining (1980): Needs no introduction or explanation. The legendary main title score by Wendy Carlos dives us head first into terror as much as the amazing, stunning performance by Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance, the meek and goofy housewife who has to contend with her husband’s inherited legacy of violence,
carries us (and the film) along the second half. Duvall’s performance is often forgotten or overshadowed by Jack Nicholson’s theatrics but while his doesn’t hold up for me and can be tiring, hers will never cease to capture the full terror of an isolated nightmare.
The Thing (1982/2011): John Carpenter’s original remake of the ‘50s sci-fi film The Thing from Another World is an incredible exercise in pure suspense and paranoia with some of the best special effects ever committed to film and while it is populated entirely by men, it lacks any of the machismo bullshit that usually makes all-male horror films so aggravating. It’s a genuine genre classic and for good reason. The prequel from 2011 (with the same title) shows what happened to the Norwegian camp discovered in Carpenter’s film, but this time our hero(ine) is the American paleontologist Kate, played by genre icon and my personal favorite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of two women in the entire camp full of men, most of whom she doesn’t share a language with. What the prequel lacks in originality (and quality of CGI), it makes up for in genre effectiveness, with a heroine who we realistically root for and a serious tone, and serves as a good companion piece to the first film that doesn’t have to live up to the pure fear it elicits (how could it?) in order to be enjoyed.
Cold Prey 1 & 2 (2006/2008): This Norwegian slasher series is one of if not the best example of a straight forward slasher from the past decade, and that’s a key part of what makes it so great. Completely ignoring the self-aware nudging ushered in by Scream, while also being genuinely well made, the first film introduces us to an a group of friends who take refuge in a abandoned hospital high in the snow-covered mountains after a skiing trip goes wrong. Par for the course, the hotel is anything but abandoned. The suspense is ramped up so much more than usual in most slashers when the group starts dying off because most of the youth in this film are genuinely likeable and coalesce in a way rarely seen in the genre. Of course, this film has its final girl in Jannicke, who displays her smarts and survival skills early on, but goes full badass toward the end. She returns in the sequel, which is just as effective imo if slightly more indebted to the 80s slasher excesses than the original. This time, when the killer is brought back to life in the hospital Jannicke has been lifted to, she knows what she’s up against and while she is still scared, she’s no longer surprised by him, and she’s ready.
P2 (2007): Angela is heading home for Christmas in New Jersey when she gets locked in the parking garage of the NYC business tower she works in and when she goes looking for help from security she gets anything but. What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase through 4 levels of the garage between a murderous security guard who sees himself as Angela’s protector and a “nice guy” and the terrified but stronger than she looks Angela who finally gets the last word.
Child’s Play (1988): Mom horror is perfected in this slasher classic about the now-famous Chucky, a popular child’s toy possessed by a serial killer, that finds his way into a single mother’s home when she is given a deal for the doll she would otherwise never be able to afford for her son. Set in the world of minimum wage retail, absent fathers, late capitalism, apartment isolation, and surrounding inequality and poverty, this movie says a lot more than you’d think the movie that spawned such a comedic horror franchise would, while also being truly frightening and marking a high point of late-80s big city horror. The scene where Karen realizes first-hand that her son’s claims about the doll are entirely founded is still one of the best in genre history.
The rest are films that have been on my radar for a while but that I know are promising and hope to see soon:
All Through The House (2015): a modern slasher film that’s been acclaimed in horror circles as a legit throwback to the genre without resulting in pastiche or cliche, of which I’ve also seen praise for its final girl. “All Through the House revolves around a Christmas-obsessed neighborhood engulfed in fear when five-year-old Jamie Garrett mysteriously vanishes from her home never to be seen again. The missing girl’s house goes dark as her mother becomes a depressed recluse. The local children, mesmerized by the haunted story, trade bedtime fears about their missing friend, eventually turning the tragedy into an innocuous fairytale. Fifteen years later, Rachel Kimmel, a 22-year-old student comes home for Christmas. Rachel’s memories of the missing girl bring her face to face with the creepy Mrs. Garrett. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is struck by horror as a faceless Santa-killer stalks the wintry streets, leaving a trail of slaughtered women and castrated men to the steps of the Garrett house. Rachel soon finds herself in a horrifying nightmare as she discovers the madness behind the Santa mask. The killer’s twisted revelation sends Rachel into shock as she learns her own sick connection to the Garrett family legacy.”
Silent Night (2012): A loose remake of the Silent Night, Deadly Night ‘80s slasher series which I’m not extremely interested in considering it has a pretty consistent lack of final girls and its main arc follows a comedically deranged serial killer. This update however, where “A vicious killer dressed as Santa Claus hides in plain sight during a small town’s annual Christmas festivities.” has Jaime King in a lead role where she faces off against the killer who wields a flame-thrower this time.
Frozen (2010): “As a winter storm approaches, three people become stranded on a chairlift high above the ground after a ski resort closes for the night.”
While not a slasher film, this survival horror film features a cast of people killed off one by one, a female lead, and fairly good ratings for the genre. Adding to its appeal is a directed by credit from Adam Green who has already made a name for himself with the slasher trilogy Hatchet which features one of the great final girls of this century.
Wind Chill (2007): “Just before their university campus goes quiet for the winter break, a young woman (Emily Blunt) asks a classmate for a lift home. The two students set off on their trip and begin to get to know each other. But, when a reckless motorist drives them off the road, they find themselves stranded in the snow on a remote highway. As the night grows colder, the two are confronted by a horde of menacing apparitions – and struggle to escape with their lives.” Described as slow-burning (though contested by some as just boring) and with a standout performance from Emily Blunt, here playing a character known only as “the girl”, this is one of the movies I’m looking forward to seeing most.
So there you have it… my list of womyn’s horror for this winter. I’m sure there’s more I’m leaving off or have yet to discover but this is a good starting point for things to alternate with between all the Hallmark movies (which IMO we need to all admit go off just as much a good portion of the time).