Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Horror: Staying Within Reach Of The Storm

On this, our last day of celebrating winter horror (and almost conveniently during a major Nor'easter), I thought I'd highlight some of the films that are not specifically horror films but have hints of horror/terror/fear, etc. 

Just rounding up a group off the top of my head actually turned out to be fairly extensive.  Mind you, this is not a definitive list of every film that has snow or winter in it, but there are a lot here.  They are all scary in some way, whether it is man against nature, crimes against others, or just the struggle to survive the elements.

And since we're at the end of the winter horror road, I wanted to again thank James Gracey for being a part of these two weeks with Marie and I.  His writing talent is endless, and quite frankly makes us look like plebes! THANKS!

And thank you, readers,  for tuning in - and stay warm!

Three men find a crashed airplane with a dead pilot and what equals 4 million bucks inside. It's the classic question of morals - do they tell someone or keep it for themselves?  The harsh winter plays host to several murders, causing events to spiral out of control and raise the question of whether the "simple plan" was really worth it at all.

ALIVE (1993)
The gripping true story of a team of Uruguayan rugby players whose plane crashes in the Andes and they are forced to turn to cannibalism (of their deceased family and friends) to stay alive. The weather is completely in your face throughout this entire film - it is the reason that they are there, the dangers that they have to face (freezing to death, avalanches, etc,), and the deep snow they hike through to finally search for help.  The cannibalism aspect of the film is truly secondary - this is a film about determination, grit, and survival.

THE GREY (2012)
Liam Neeson stars as a man whose job entails killing wolves that try to attack an Alaskan drilling team. While that sounds bad enough, it gets much much worse when he and his team are leaving and their plane crashes - forcing them to endure ridiculously frigid temps, tons of snow, and very hungry wolves. The elements are only part of the story here, but the men fighting their way through the snowstorm in an attempt to get free of the wolves territory and search for a way out of the woods makes for highly entertaining film watching.

THE EDGE (1997)
Another "lost in the wilds" film, The Edge puts three men (Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, and Harold Perrineau) in the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but their good intentions to get them out.  And when you add a 1500 pound Kodiak grizzly bear to the equation it doesn't bode well.  They can run a lot faster than you'd think. Forced to camp out in the snow doesn't help matters, as braving the elements is more than just a little difficult with a bear on your trail and you're flat-out freezing to death!.  Super adventure thriller, highly recommended.

Based on an award-winning book by David Guterson, this film is the tale of a murder trial that takes place during a miserable snowstorm. In 1950's Washington (state), a Japanese-American is accused of killing a white man. Times are already precarious due to poor Japanese/American relations after WWII.  A reporter (Ethan Hawke) further heightens the issue by falling in love with the accused murderer's wife.

A tragic bus accident in a small Canadian town in the dead of winter sends its residents into a complete funk, reeling with hard feelings and hoping for justice by way of a class-action lawsuit. Now a paraplegic, 15 year-old Nicole (Sarah Polley) is her parents' only hope for a settlement, but she's not sure she wants the added attention, much to the dismay of attorney Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm). Relationships falter and feelings are toyed with in this affecting drama based on a novel by Russell Banks.

Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), this adventure film full of highs and lows (quite literally) is about a group of mostly arrogant climbers tackling the world's second largest peak (and most difficult climb). Obviously attempting a go at K2 isn't easy at any time of the year, with the near-summit locations being among the worst conditions anywhere in the world. Filmed in breathtaking locations including Pakistan (where K2 is) make for a death-defying trip to the heights of the world.

K2 (1991)
Sometimes if these types of adventure films would just stick to the action and leave out all the melodrama I think they would fare better at the box office.  Regardless of whether or not it was a hit or not (not), K2 is another great look at the world's tallest peaks and the horrific weather conditions that surround them and the people crazy enough to scale them. Another group of self-centered climbers risk life and limb to get to the top of the earth.

A fascinating yet very tense documentary tale of survival about two men who are climbing Siula Grande (20,540ft) in the Peruvian Andes. By now you have realized how much I love these kinds of films by this, the third mountain-climbing film on the list. But this one is different in that there are only two men involved in the strugle for life and death on the mountain. Scary stuff.

The last of my 'death on the mountain' films, Into Thin Air is the made-for-tv movie based on the book by Jon Krakauer. It reenacts the story of the author and a duo of climbing teams that face the worst imaginable weather at quite literally the top of the world. While somewhat melodramatic at times, there's no doubt that winter and all its fury are alive and well on Mt. Everest 24/7, and until people respect it for what it is, there will be stories like this to tell.

It's been a whole lotta years since I've seen this movie, but not too long that I don't remember the famous battle on the ice planet Hoth. I've read that this was the most difficult production in Star Wars history - with budgets running amok and temperatures in Norway (where some filming took place) plummeting to the basement. The cast endured one of the worse Norwegian winters in history. But it was worth it, right??

A crippling ice storm in 1973 Connecticut is just the catalyst for the even more catastrophic problems facing two families as they struggle with the difficulties of the time. The film deals with their young teenaged children experimenting with drugs while the adults get blind drunk and sleep with each other. The storm wails outside and the two families are forced to come face to face with their problems.
An extremely unique role in film, the title character (played by Rooney Mara in the US adaptation of the hugely successful novel by the late Stieg Larsson) Lisbeth Salander has a special skill-set, enabling her to decipher a notebook given to her by Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). They work together on an investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy man's great-niece. With the cold winter of Sweden ever-present, this brilliant thriller was well-received and is the first in a trilogy.

Tucked in between seasons 5 and 6 of the popular sci-fi/horror television show, this movie further elaborates on the conspiracy theories of the possible alien colonization of earth. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) reprise their roles as FBI agents determined to seek the truth about what the government is apparently hiding. Following the mythology angle of the show, the agents end up in the frozen Antarctic where the infamous cigarette smoking man has hoarding an alien space ship.

An adventure movie starring the wildly attractive Paul Walker, Eight Below tells the semi-true story of a group of sled-dogs that are left behind to fend for themselves in the frigid Antarctic. Walker plays Jerry Shepard, an Antarctic guide whose group gets caught in a horrific storm and are forced to leave their sled dogs behind. Five months later Shepard returns to hunt for the dogs, who have been on their own. Really a great film, especially for older children.

An unbelievably depressing yet realistic film starring Kate Beckinsale as a down-on-her-luck waitress with an alcoholic estranged husband (Sam Rockwell), a missing daughter, and a guilty conscious for sleeping with her best friend's husband. The search for daughter Tara throws a small town into turmoil even as winter seems to close in even tighter around them, proving that life doesn't always have a happy ending.

FARGO (1996)
This Oscar-winning film by the Coen brothers pits Marge Gunderson - a very pregnant police chief - (Frances McDormand, Best Actress) against two criminals who have kidnapped the wife of one Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy). Jerry has hired said criminals because he is down on his luck financially and intends to seek ransom from his father-in-law. The hilarity that ensues, combined with the true-crime aspect of the movie, make it one of the best films of the 90's. You betcha!


Marie said...

This is completely irrelevant but Daniel Craig is looking SO FOINE in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Christine Hadden said...

Yep yep! And my copy of Skyfall is currently on its way to my house in some FedEx truck somewhere, so I hear what you're saying about Craig. Woot :)