Brian McNamara’s Dead of Winter

January 28, 2010 at 12:47 am 1 comment

We are told that this movie is based on a true story. Sure it is.  You see, once upon a time they made a movie called The Shinning. Twice as a matter of fact. And that is what Dead of Winter is based on. On imdb it’s better known as Lost Signal.  I can see the reason for the alternate title, the movie only loosely deals with a dropped cell phone signal. This movie has some intentional references to The Shinning.  I wouldn’t call it a rip off completely because it only borrows elements. The movie even goes so far to directly reference The Shinning at one point.  In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you the true story this movie is based on.  I can’t imagine it was anything like this movie though so the connection has to be loose at best.

It’s New Years Eve. Kevin and Tiffany are at a party. At the coaxing of a very sleazy guy whom has a big, red flashing “DO NOT TRUST” light over his head, they do some meth and LSD. Sleazy’s plan is to get Kevin and Tiffany passed out so he can rape Tiffany without either of them knowing about it. But they get wise to his plan and leave the party. Of course, they are high as a kite so they eventually have to stop driving, believing they got in an accident. From there they wander out into the woods, get lost, and get terribly scared. Along the way, Kevin gets paranoid. He believes Tiffany is trying to kill him. There are two shock ends to this movie. One of them is telegraphed during the beginning of the movie. The other one goes out of no where and really kills any sense of tragedy there might have been in the end. And about that last ending, carbon copied from Donnie Darko.

Knowing that our characters are high and all of the scares are in their head really kills the suspense that the movie should have held through out the bulk of the movie. It hard to take the terrifying moments seriously because we know it is a hallucination. At one point, they mistake cows for illegal alien farm workers. Why illegals would be out in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter, picking crops is beyond me but their high so what was I to expect. Another part, Kevin gets chased by a thresher a’la Children of the Corn. This should hold some suspense but since we know its in his head, it fails to really be scary. The movie does get creep when Kevin starts to get paranoid of Tiffany. We know he is high and not in his right mind, so there is a very real possibility that he could kill her.  While all of this is taking place, the cops are looking for them. The Lost Signal title comes from Kevin’s repeated calls to 911, trying to explain where they are and what kind of trouble they are in. However, being that they are out in the county, the signal keeps dropping. This plays into the movie somewhat, but is also played for phony scares that aren’t scary but rather aggravating. Anyway, shortly after Kevin gets suspicion of Tiffany, his acting gets really hammy. From they he goes into a full blown Jack Nicholson from The Shinning impression, going so far as to quote lines. I don’t think this was meant to be played for laughs but it gets pretty funny.

On the positive side, this movie had great lighting. They did a good job of setting up what the mood was suppose to be. The camera work at times can be disorienting. I’m sure thats what they were going for but this movie will make you a bit dizzy. I’m sure it was meant to help you share the experience of the characters and to that end, it was successful. But I know that kind of camera work isn’t for everyone, even if it has a purpose. The Donnie Darko holds a good sense of tragedy until the final seconds and the shock ending.

Was it a good movie? No. Was it better than Road House? No. It’s hard to feel sympathy for characters who got high and got into trouble for it. And since most of the conventional scares can be explained away, the genuine shock and horror just wasn’t there. I can tell there was a lot of talent behind the making of this film. I would like to see what else the director has worked on. I just don’t think this story should have been told. It’s not very cinematic. It plays like a hysterical anti-drug PSA. Harmless? This movie is not harmless. It kind of hurts.


Entry filed under: Horror. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Susan J  |  December 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I think this movie is based on a news story from several years back. If it is, that coupled died.


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