By David Dent
The Hateful Eight meets Misery probably best sums up Charlie Steed’s latest film. The first thing that hits you is that, despite the paucity of finance, Winterskin looks like a big budget movie.
After a tense pre credits sequence, where a family in a cabin in the USA are menaced by a strange ‘something,’ followed by some lovely faux 1970s TV movie titles, we’re greeted with a wintry landscape and a father and son, out hunting deer.
Sustaining a serious shotgun injury the son, Billy Kavanagh, finds refuge in a wood cabin occupied by Old Agnes, who just happens to have been the shooter (a terrific central performance from Steed regular Rowena Bentley).
Agnes tends to Billy’s wounds and gradually nurses him back to health. But (of course) old Agnes has a dark secret and is not the benevolent soul she makes herself out to be, and the stories of a strange figure seen in the woods, The Red Man, contribute to young Billy’s anxiety, already heightened by his being a virtual prisoner in the old lady’s cabin.
While Winterskin is rather talky – Agnes gets a lot of script to herself but Bentley never lets her character – or her American accent – drop, this is a movie worth catching for the final fifteen minutes, a triumph of well-choreographed action and nail-biting suspense. It also has a lot of dark humour as well – witness the scene where Billy tucks into some stew, the contents of which answers the question about what Agnes did with the corpse of her dead dog.
Seamlessly merging the wintry exterior shots filmed in Norway and the interiors (in less than snowy Guildford) Steed is assisted by some very fine cinematography from another of his entourage, Michael Lloyd, and a gaggle of authentically hairy scruffs making up the Tarantinoesque deepwoods brethren.
Topped off with a fine 1980s sounding Carpenter derived soundtrack by Sam Friessler and Stewart Hamilton, Winterskin may not turn out to be the monster movie it advertises itself as, but it’s a great film nonetheless.
Winterskin screened at the first Soho Horror Film Festival earlier this month.