The New Jersey Bombogenesis Massacre: 5 Movies to Watch During a Blizzard
I used to love snow days - in fact I still do! With the recent blizzard hitting us pretty hard on the East Coast, dubbed a ‘Bombogenesis’ by weather experts around the country, I received said snow day from work, so after shoveling the 10+ inches of snow, I immediately seeked shelter from Hoth and started planning out a few things to watch that aren’t The Shining or John Carpenter’s The Thing. There’s nothing wrong with watching those (in fact I DID watch those as well!) they’re two giant pillars of our genre that deserve every bit (if not more) of the accolades they receive, I just wanted to switch it up a bit, and boy, did I have a blast! I’m currently writing this while wrapped in blankets, the power conked out a little while ago and it’s -6 degrees out right now! I couldn’t be more in the zone to talk about frigid, cold-temperatured cinema… I dub this situation ’method writing’! Sorry, I digress, anyway: here’s five things to watch during a BOMBOGENESIS snow blizzard!
A group of actresses gather for a weekend casting call at the secluded mansion of famed director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon), who’s searching for the perfect woman to play the crazed role of ‘Audra’ in his latest film. These actresses are all keen on getting the part - in fact, Stryker’s last leading lady, Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar), is so determined to get the lead role, she commits herself to an insane asylum to prepare for the part… now that’s some serious method acting preparation! Unfortunately for everyone involved, a mysterious crazed killer dons a disgusting hag mask and begins viciously taking people out one by one!
Boasting some wicked kills, cool atmosphere, the best skating scene in the history of horror, and one hell of a creepy mask, Curtains is an enjoyable 80’s slasher that doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough as it should. Despite a few pacing issues here and there and some slightly muddled subplots due to a troubled production, Curtains still manages to deliver the goods, in fact, said subplot/pacing issues actually give this a bit of a giallo feel, and I’m all about that! The isolated mansion amidst the wintery Canadian landscape works so very well, setting up a very bleak scenario! The killers creepy mask is SUPER effective, and the aforementioned ice skating scene ranks among the best set pieces in the slasher genre!
4. The Twilight Zone S2: E8 - “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
During a brutal snowstorm, two state troopers are investigating a crash after a woman telephoned them and are led to believe that it was a flying saucer, with the only clue to survivors being footprints they find at the scene. They follow footprints leading from the crash site to a small roadside diner, where a group of passengers from a bus to Boston are waiting for word that a bridge up ahead is safe to cross. After a head count of the passengers, something isn’t quite right… there is one more person than there were people on the bus. Strange things begin to happen… the jukebox begins to plays on its own, the lights begin to flicker mysteriously, and sugar bowls explode on the tables sending everyone into a frenzy of paranoia as mutual suspicion amongst the passengers elevates tension as they try to figure out who might be the thing from another world!
Something The Twilight Zone always exceeds at swimmingly is paranoia and elevated tension, and this episode is no exception. This trapped in a single location scenery works so well and this episode is one of my favorites in the series, and perfect for being trapped in your house while snow piles up! I actually started my marathon with this to get in the mood and I couldn’t resist including it on this list!
As Kim and George (Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber) and their son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan of Malcolm in the Middle fame) are en route to the Catskills to spend a snowy weekend away, they accidentally hit a deer and are run off the road. What seems to be a mere occurrence of misfortune during a relaxing family getaway marks the beginning of a terrifying backwoods journey, where Native American myth becomes reality and an evil spirit, half man and half animal, haunts the snowy upstate New York town, putting our main characters in quite the predicament.
Patron saint of East Coast horror, Larry Fessenden, wrote and directed Wendigo in 2001 shortly after winning the Independent Spirit ‘Someone to Watch’ Award for his previous film Habit. Wendigo is an expertly edited, nicely paced “city folk go to the country” psychological horror tale with a scenic snowy upstate NY setting that's to die for. Fessenden's visually dense directing style coupled with that small town atmosphere builds the tension nicely, as psychological terrors begin to slowly seep into our well casted trio of main characters. I’ve been low key fascinated by wendigo stories ever since hearing campfire stories about them (oddly enough, in upstate NY), and I’m glad one of my favorite filmmakers managed to tackle this rural folk legend and make a low budget venture seem like a big studio affair.
2. We Are Still Here
After their teenage son is killed in a car crash, Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) move into a new home in a quiet, snowy, New England countryside to try to start a new life for themselves, but the grieving couple unknowingly falls prey to a family of vengeful spirits that reside there. At first, they believe it to be the presence of their son, so they seek the help of their psychic friends May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to make contact, but soon realize that not everything is what it seems in this peaceful town, and vengeful spirits aren’t their only problem. Now they must find a way to overcome their grief and fight back against the living and dead as the malicious ghosts threaten to pull their souls into hell!
This splatterific take on haunted house flicks starts of slow in its first half hour, but twists audience expectations by revving up big time in the second and third acts, culminating in an outrageously bloody Fulci-esque finale! Nicely directed with some fine performances by a cast made up of middle aged characters, We Are Still Here took me by surprise when it dropped a few years back and has become a yearly revisit for me whenever the temperature drops. Oh, and Larry Fessenden continues to be a character actor delight, turning in another small but memorable performance!
I had to include at least one full on classic on this list, and that’s just what Misery is to me! After a serious car crash on a snowy road, novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who brings him to her remote cabin to recover, after tending his wound she admits to bring his biggest fan. Shortly afterward, her obsession takes a dark turn when she discovers Sheldon is killing off her favorite character from his novels. Trapped in a wheelchair and left for dead from the outside world, Paul devises plans for escape as Annie grows increasingly controlling and violent, as she forces him to rewrite his story to suit her twisted fantasies.
Pulp romance, crazed obsession, torturously sadistic captivity, and claustrophobia fuel Misery. The extremely minimal cast, all EXCELLENT, elevate Misery’s tension big time. No ghosts, no possessed houses or cars, no alien monster clowns or vampires, as all things supernatural are thrown out the window and the dangers of psychotic fandom are front and center. Misery continues to climb my list of King adaptations, easily ranking in my top five, and earning its rightful spot as one of the 90’s best horror films.