★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
With shades of Stephen King’s Misery and hideous monsters added to the mix, this U.K. scare fare flick delivers the snowbound goods.
Directed by Charlie Steeds
The latest indie feature from prolific U.K.- based writer/director Charlie Steeds (Escape from Cannibal Farm ; The Barge People ) is a great looking, well-crafted shocker in which two people find themselves at odds in a remote cabin, with eerie creatures trying desperately to get inside at them. The tenuous relationship between those characters, the degree to which one of them may or may not be insane, and the mystery behind what the creatures might be drive this nifty effort.
Billy Cavanagh (David Lenik) is hunting in the snowy woods somewhere in the Rural United States when he is shot in the leg. He wakes up in a cabin having been tended to by Agnes (Rowena Bentley), a woman who fears creatures that leave blood-red footprints in the snow and try to attack her. She guards her door with a shotgun, and tells Billy that he must stay with her for some time as he heals. She doesn’t have a working radio or any way to contact the outside world, nor does she have any means of transportation.
Billy gets a strong case of cabin fever, and isn’t quick to believe Agnes’ tales of monsters, especially as she seems loonier with each passing minute. Their relationship eventually becomes reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, and the more desperately Billy tries to escape, the more horrifying things get.
Basically a two-hander with a few secondary characters, Winterskin depends heavily on the performances by Lenik and Bentley. Both give solid turns, with Bentley walking the fine line between a strong portrayal of a madwoman and scenery chewing. Lenik nails the confused, frightened Billy. What works against the favor of these actors is occasionally spotty dialogue, but overall, Steeds’ screenplay more than makes up for those missteps.
Steeds certainly knows how to helm a horror film, as he paces the suspense impressively. Set pieces involving a family under siege in the opening minutes and an injured Billy having to defend both himself and Agnes from a decidedly unwanted visitor are highlights of the director’s fine work. The cinematography from Michael Lloyd, who has worked with Steeds on previous features, is sharp and crisp.
Kate Griffiths has done splendid work with Winterskin’s special effects and makeup. The film’s gruesome creatures are splendidly rendered, and some wounds and other body harm on display are gory, indeed.
Winterskin is my introduction to Steed’s body of fright fare, and because it is so well realized, I can’t wait to see more of what he has to offer as a director.
High Octane Pictures and Dark Temple Films released Winterskin on digital platforms on May 21.