Showing posts with label Wind Chill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wind Chill. Show all posts

Friday, October 18, 2013

Halloween 2013: Road Trip Horror ~ Scenic Route & Wind Chill

Scenic Route  (2013) is a film recently recommended to me by a friend and it happens to fit perfectly into this week's theme of road trip horror, because this is a prime example.

Mitchell (Josh Duhamel) and Carter (Dan Fogler) are two life-long friends who are on a road trip through, for an indeterminable reason, Death Valley.  When fate hits hard, Carter's old pick-up truck breaks down, leaving them in one of the hottest locations in the United States to be stuck in.  Tempers quickly flare and tension replaces nostalgia as the two bicker about the crippled vehicle and why this specific route was chosen in the first place.

When help arrives, Carter shoos them away hastily, and fesses up to Mitchell that he set the breakdown up by messing with some wires. Aghast, Mitchell begins cursing and demands to know why Carter - or anyone - would do such a thing, and in the desert to boot.  Carter tries to reason his way out of it by exclaiming that it was the only way he could get Mitchell's attention so that he could talk to him about the life choices Mitchell has made. 
Once determined to make it playing guitar for a living, Mitchell is now married to someone he impulsively hooked up with after a bad break-up and has ended up with a wife, a child, a mortgage, and a decent yet tedious career - all of which at first it seems Carter is insanely jealous of.  So he engineered the truck mishap to have some alone time with his BFF.

Unfortunately, when Carter attempts to reconnect the wires and get the truck moving again, it is no quick fix. In fact, it simply will not start. So there the two friends sit, in the scalding heat of a Death Valley afternoon, arguing.  Carter makes a case for the "old" Mitchell - the one who had dreams and ambitions, not the guy sitting beside him who settled for the ordinary.  Countering, Mitchell complains that Carter has never done anything with his life, that though he wants to be a writer he has no talent, has no permanent home, drives a piece of shit truck, and has no love in his life because of his actions.  The acting of the two leads here is so true to life and believable you may think you've heard yourself and your own bestie arguing the same exact points.

After long bouts of silence and Mitchell spending part of the night out in the desert cold, the two make amends (if only temporarily) and Mitchell confesses he recently cheated on his wife at a conference and admits his life is not what he had hoped. Honestly begins to show its face and soon they are laughing and Carter is cutting Mitchell's hair into a mohawk - something Mitchell always wanted but never had the guts to do.

But as the desert heat rises and the two run out of water, tensions rise and the inevitable fighting begins again. This time though, the quarrel escalates into a full-blown row, with harsh words and name calling that eventually becomes violent enough to come to blows.  The men attack each other with punching and kicking until Carter lies seemingly lifeless on the ground. At that point Mitchell reconsiders his life and the friendship (let alone the life ) he has possibly ended and when Carter does finally come around it becomes the entire film's turning point.

With all the arguing is out of the way, the film morphs into true survival mode.  The previous arguments and physical beatings seem very insignificant when you are fighting for your life.  The two men are out of food and water, are physically and emotionally drained, and there's not a soul in sight for miles.  They take to the desert on foot, intent on following the sun and finding their way out.

Both Duhamel and Fogler are pretty impressive here.  Fogler is the typical buffoon, the moronic best friend-type of guy who just sits around eating cheetos and strumming his ukelele and wishing his buddies didn't spend so much time with their wives. It can be overplayed, but Fogler does a decent job and is faithful to the stereotype. His Carter is so annoying at times that you think you might actually throw something at the television screen.  You've heard all his arguments before, but he'll tell you one more time anyway.  Duhamel is slightly more formidable, after having listened to his pal bitch about his wife, job, and the way he lives non-stop, he takes matters into his own hands, even using one of his crutches (from an ailment we know nothing about) to make his point.

In the end, Scenic Route is a power play between the two pals, both unable to completely let go of the things that keep them apart but equally as determined to keep their friendship alive. A road trip can already make or break a friendship, but throw in horrific conditions and bitter regrets and Death Valley isn't just the name of a park.

MORE ROAD TRIP HORROR:

Wind Chill  (2007) is more than a road trip film, it has supernatural elements that make it slightly more spooky than just a run-of-the-mill horror story.  We've mentioned this film once before, in our Winter Horror feature - you can check out the wise words of James Gracey HERE. But for now, let me just say you could do worse than this little-known tale of road trip horror. 

Without the benefit of names, our characters are simply boy and girl.  Girl (Emily Blunt) is heading home from college for the holidays and finds a ride-share with Boy (Ashton Holmes).  Girl is nothing other than ill-natured and doesn't readily converse with Boy, whose attempts at getting to know her fall on deaf ears. 

As the two drive through the snowy landscape, they end up taking an off-the-main-route road that Boy says is a short cut. She argues with him about this decision, and becomes uneasy when she sees what looks like multiple crosses and grave sites along the sides of the road.  When another car comes barreling towards them, they swerve erratically to miss it and end up in a snowbank.

As if wrecking in a snowstorm on a deserted road isn't bad enough, the supernatural strangeness starts when, upon searching for help, they run into what can only be called ghostly corpses that are compelled to live out their otherworldly existence reliving their untimely demises over and over again. Even worse, Boy may not be who he says he is.  This road trip just barreled full force ahead into nothing less than the twilight zone.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snowbound: Winter Horror Films To Keep You Warm ~Part 2

 GHOST STORY (1981)

One of my very favorite films is steeped in cold dread as four men face the irresponsible and costly mistakes of their youth. A freezing winter setting is perfect for the ghostly happenings that descend upon the small New England town of Milburn. There is a quiet uneasiness about the whole film as it follows a group of older gents that when in college, met the beautiful and enigmatic Eva Galli. A horrific accident puts Eva in her grave - but she doesn't quite stay there.  While some people complain about it being too slow, or that it doesn't follow author Peter Straub's book close enough (and I've long considered Straub's book my favorite novel) - it didn't bother me. The weather plays a big part in Ghost Story, as their little Vermont town is front and center and overtaken by snow at every turn.  It even has some lovely wintery deaths (a man falls off a bridge into a frozen river, another is attacked in his car while driving down a snowy road and ends up into a snow bank, etc.) and then there's the fact that Eva Galli has been under snow and ice in the pond for over fifty years...and she's pretty pissed.  A well-worth it slow burn with loads of atmosphere and many chilling scenes that will stick with you for a long time to come. /CH

COLD PREY II (2008)

Having survived the massacre at the abandoned hotel, Jannicke finds her way to a hospital. Much to her chagrin, the body of the maniac she tossed over an icy precipice has been recovered along with her dead friends, and brought to the same hospital. On closer inspection, the doctors discover he is not dead at all… Cold Prey II is a supreme slasher sequel. Picking up directly where the first film leaves off (in the first of many nods to Halloween II) it maintains the suspense and adds to the back-story. Aware of its status as a slasher sequel, but not in a Kevin Williamson kinda way, it has a bigger cast, higher body count and more elaborate kills, but still unravels as a refreshingly intelligent horror film. The body count may be higher, but the bodies are fully developed characters that react realistically to their predicament. The draughty, eerily deserted hospital setting emphasises the isolation and vulnerability of the characters. The explanation for its emptiness is rooted in social commentary and mirrors the plight of many small rural communities in Norway. Adding to the creepy atmosphere is the ever-wintry environs of the rural setting. Not a good place to be stranded when a psycho is on the loose…/JG

WHITEOUT (2009)

Looking for meteorites near the South Pole, an unexpected murder investigation goes south as Kate Beckinsale tries to discover who is on the right side of the law. When an unknown body is discovered in a remote location, it doesn't take anyone too long to realize death by ax in the Antarctic isn't exactly the norm. While it's somewhat hard to fathom Beckinsale as a US Marshall, I suppose belief can be suspended for a few hours while we watch her try to nab a killer. Time is of the essence though, as if they are too late boarding the final plane out before a monster storm, they will be stuck there for six months - with a murderer.  Not the best plot ever, but the howl of the antarctic wind, the brutal temps and non-stop blizzard conditions pack a frigid punch. /CH


CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)

This ‘tender tale of terror’ was a follow up Cat People, the first in a series of moody, literate horror films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s. It told of Serbian immigrant Irena who believes she descends from a race of people who turn into slathering panthers when their passions are aroused. Her marriage to the All-American Oliver becomes increasingly strained, and when Oliver begins an affair with his co-worker Alice, Irena’s heartbreak and jealously unlocks a side of her she had previously tried to suppress… Whereas Cat People, one of the first films to reference the work of Sigmund Freud, plays out as a dark and unflinching study of sexual repression and anxiety, Curse unravels as a haunting study of childhood fears and psychology, as Oliver and Alice’s young daughter makes a new friend who bears an uncanny similarity to her father’s now-dead first wife. Is her friend imaginary or is something more sinister afoot? Directed by Robert Wise, Curse is another evocative Lewton production which demonstrates how effective the ‘less is more’ approach to horror can be. Choosing to suggest horror rather than show it outright, Curse is a beautifully moody and atmospheric tale. Much of the story unfurls around Christmas time and there’s a particularly memorable moment when Irena reveals herself to Amy in the garden; light and shadows dancing and moving across the snow-covered scene./JG

MISERY (1990)One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date, Misery not only showcased the stellar acting talents of both Kathy Bates and James Caan, but it made everyone think twice about admitting to being a "number 1 fan:" of anything.  Paul Sheldon leaves his writing haven during a blinding snowstorm and finds himself down an embankment and into a snowbank, soon to be rescued by one Annie Wilkes. Conveniently, Annie is a former nurse with knowledge of orthopedic injuries and an endless supply of pain killers.  Unfortunately for Paul, she's also fucking crazy.  The tension that ensues as Paul begins to realize he may never get out of Annie's remotely located snowed-in farmhouse only ratchets up further when she finds out he's been out of his locked room.  Not only that, but he killed off Annie's favorite character in his famous Misery Chastain romances. Over time the snow piles up higher and higher, as does Paul's fears - until he devises a plan to escape.  But Annie's punishments are ever-so hobbling humbling. A really great film to watch on a snowy Sunday afternoon./CH

WIND CHILL (2007)

Revolving around two unacquainted university students driving home for Christmas and becoming stranded in a snow storm on a haunted stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, Wind Chill has much to recommend it. Described by its screenwriter Steven Katz as an attempt to create “the world’s smallest ghost story”, the majority of the film is set within a small, draughty car stalled on the snow-smothered roadside. Boasting a creepy intimacy which is enhanced by well-drawn characters, an unnerving atmosphere, claustrophobic setting and unrelenting chilliness, much of the uneasiness, to begin with anyway, comes from the frosty relationship between the two characters. Although events eventually venture out into the snowy night beyond the relative safety of the car, they do so only briefly, and what unfolds there, in the dark, icy forest, will have you longing to be back inside the car. Disturbing encounters and spectral visions bolster the wintry tone and up the tension, as do the secretive and ambiguous nature of Ashton Holmes’ character, and his true intentions regarding his offer to drive Emily Blunt home. Sadly, if the overall foundering atmospherics don’t freeze your blood, the unsurprising reveal will leave you feeling somewhat cold…/JG


LET ME IN (2010)

When it was announced that an American remake was in the works for the already perfect LTROI made only a few years before, outrage within the horror community seemed imminent. The original film, based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, was a fantastic tale about a adolescent young boy and his relationship with a cold-hearted killer - a vampire stuck in the body of a twelve-year-old who has been feeding off humans for decades. The remake tells the same story, basically. The two actors in the main roles (Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee) were excellent as Abby and Owen, able to convey true depth of emotion well beyond their young years. As the two get to know each other in a snow-covered courtyard of their apartment building, we slowly become aware that Abby is something other than just your average pre-teen.  Winter horror abounds here, with frozen lakes, snowy schoolyards, and plenty of the red stuff on white. For as quietly wonderful and genuinely terrifying as the original film is, this redux is - while not its equal - an extremely good Americanized version. In my opinion not to be missed, and I don't say that about too many remakes! /CH