Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Drugs Are Bad, M'Kay?

Sometimes the generically named Instant Watch horror film you've never heard of just seems to call your name, begging with shy low expectations to be streamed with an open mind. Today, that generically named Instant Watch horror film I've never heard of is 2007's Dead of Winter.

Quick Plot: Young lovers Kevin and Tiffany stop by a stoner friend’s New Year’s party, toasting with an unknowingly LSD spiked shot and driving home like the responsible leaders of tomorrow they are. It takes a few quick hallucinations to drive the pair out of their vehicular safety and into the cold, lonely, and snow covered woods oozing with rusty barbed wire and dormant plows.

A confusing 911 call alerts the small town authorities. Concerned dispatcher Nancy senses something amiss, though the sheriff seems more worried about his love interest deputy following their trail. The film rotates between the two groups.

Dead of Winter (aka Lost Signal) is a surprisingly well-made little thriller, but it lacks just about anything to make it stick. Comparing it to another snowy set, generically named holiday horror like Dead End shows how something just isn’t there. Where Dead End took a cliche plot and spun it into a funny, scary, and oddly memorable tale, Dead of Winter just sort of happens. Leads Al Santos and Sandra McCoy are fine enough, but their characters never show an ounce of intrigue to really make us care. Give them a dog that needs walking or a cute in-joke they can chuckle over, something other than the fact that they’re young and pretty to make us actually want their love and lives to last.

The other half of Dead of Winter doesn’t fare too much better (it’s hard to invest too much in overly inept policemen) but the film salvages itself with a surprisingly touching coda. Avoiding spoilers, I’ll simply say that it’s rare for a modern dead teenager flick to think to consider the guilt and mourning of its adults.
High Points
First-time director Brian McNamara (also a veteran character actor) does a decent job of establishing some of the paranoia of our leads. Demonic voices and hallucinations could easily be laughable, and even though we as the audience are always pretty aware what’s not real, we can absolutely see why Tiffany and Kevin would get so freaked so fast
Low Points
The final “twist” doesn’t do much. I suppose it tries to make the audience rethink what they’ve just seen, but considering our heroes are already working with altered minds, what difference does it even make?
Lessons Learned
If your boyfriend’s friends are stoner jerks, avoid drinking anything they hand you not in a sealed bottle

A little knife can do big damage
In the absent night light, a cow is about the equivalent of a non-English speaking farmer
For a quick view on Instant Watch, one could do a whole lot worse than Dead of Winter. The performances are passable, cold night atmosphere effective, pacing nice and brisk. In other words, it’s perfectly fine...just not that special. Enjoy it on a light night when you feel like 80 minutes of mild entertainment. Or take an LSD laden cocktail* and have an even more interesting time.

*Note: The Deadly Doll’s House does not condone the use of hallucinogentic drugs. We’ve (okay, I’ve) seen Jacob’s Ladder and do not in any way wish to upset Macauly Culkin into becoming The Good Son.


  1. It's been about 2 years since I've seen this, but I kinda remember it surpassing my expectations of being some shitty straight to DVD horror movie. Instead, it was a "not bad" anti-drug commercial stretched out to 80-something minutes.

  2. You know, for a PSA about drugs, it's certainly better than average!

  3. That premise sounds quite intriguing! And as for the tag line - "Please hang up and die again"... Well, 'nuff said really. I'd check this out.
    I do love stumbling across cheap horror flicks I've never heard of - sure it is risky, but sometimes, just sometimes, you get yourself a real hidden gem. 'The Roost' I'm looking at you.

  4. Why does the title "The Roost" ring a bell? Was that a Ty West film?

    I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on Dead Winter. Not great, but perfectly adequate. A great hidden gem really is Dead End, which I can't highly recommend enough. Nice black comedy with some surprising scares.

  5. This actually sounds like some fun....
    If it's instant watch, I'll check it out.

  6. I saw this not too long ago, and it is a bit better than average. I couldn't help comparing it to the 2007 film Wind Chill though which is much more spooky, atmospheric and claustrophobic. It's also about a couple stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the snow.

    The Roost is Ty West's, and I liked it, but I've heard other people were 'meh' about it. It probably helps not to go in with Ty expectations. Sorry for the pun.

  7. Yeah, I thought of Wind Chill as I read this! But that one made the fatal mistake of assuming that an audience could be afraid of Martin Donovan.

  8. Enjoy Andrew! It should still be on Instant Watch last I checked.

    Shiftless: Do not EVER apologize for puns! They are more welcome here than even the most laughable of killer dolls. I will eventually check out The Roost. I adored House of the Devil but was not happy with Cabin Fever. I'm curious to see the evolution of West. Those first films can always be interesting.

    Pearce: Now I'm realizing how much I should see Wind Chill. I LOVE when major villains are unassuming actors! (aka that lil irish dude from The Wire in Blackout!)

  9. I too had no expectations and actually found that I enjoyed it for what it was, surprisingly. I suppose it's not very memorable, because I hardly remember much about it, but I liked the winter setting and it didn't hurt that the girlfriend was to my liking (that's the clean version!). There are a lot worse films that can be chosen in the take a chance world of Netflix watch instantly!

  10. Matt, you are a true gentleman. And you and I know all too well that there are MANY worse films on Netflix Instant Watch!

  11. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 31, 2010 at 7:22 AM

    That murderous, hideous and loathsome "wolf in sheeps clothing" with-in our society known as "Alcohol" is allowed to literally get away with murder on a regular basis where-as all the other drugs (which are no-where near as harmful as alcohol) are demonised for the sake of hollywood scriptwriters by a corrupt (so-called) govern-girl-t and a hateful and spiteful (so-called) media, what kind of ludicrous hypocrisy are we dealing with here?.

  12. Whoa. I consider alcohol my sometimes roommate. Easy there.

  13. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 31, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    You mean you`re determined to be in denial (like millions of other people) about the murderous hypocrisy that poisons and plagues our society with regards to this subject?. This is no time for levity Emily, its time to do battle with the lies and hypocrisy.

  14. I have to agree with Mr. Hamster - I have never murdered anyone while high on heroin, LSD or crystal meth. I don't remember murdering anyone when I'm drunk, but I don't remember a lot of things I've apparently done while drunk so who knows?

  15. jervaise brooke hamsterJanuary 1, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Thanks Pearce, its nice to know someone agrees.

  16. Jervaise: It's not that I'm in denial. It's just that I like beer. I'm not so ready to give any support to a cause that might flip the law, like when the voting and drinking age swapped back in the day. I'm just selfish like that.

    Pearce: I feel like you're on to starting a script for a fine film...

  17. jervaise brooke hamsterJanuary 2, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Sorry to labour the point Emily, its just that the ludicrous hypocrisy with-in our society with regards to every aspect of the "so-called" drug culture in general grinds me down really badly.