Walking down Dundas Street in Toronto on a recent warm September night I was surprised to turn the corner and see a snow bank stretching an entire city block. Fighting the urge to run home and unpack my parka I continued on to discover the snow was only a promotional gimmick for the movie Whiteout, a horror film set in Antarctica and opening this weekend.
Anyone who has ever lost their mittens on Halifax’s Citadel Hill on a chilly January morning knows the terror of hypothermia but filmmakers have often used the cold as a backdrop for horror of a different kind.
Director Larry Fessenden set his global warming horror film The Last Winter in frosty Alaska although the film was shot in both Sarah Palin’s stomping ground and Iceland.
“Pure white nothingness,” one character calls it. “It looks like the last place on Earth.” The last place on earth you want to be, that is, when Mother Nature starts unleashing her evil spirits on the people who want to steal her bounty. Drill for oil, the movie suggests, and the cold will be the least of your problems.
The advertising tagline for our next cold weather horror says it all: Man is The Warmest Place to Hide. Based on the 1938 story Who Goes There by John W. Campbell, The Thing has been directly adapted for the screen twice and it has in part inspired other classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alien.
The story in John Carpenter’s scary 1982 version begins with an E.T. who crashlands on Earth and get buried under layers of Antarctic ice. Years later the creature is discovered by modern scientists who also find that it assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.
It’s hard to know who to trust when a shape shifting alien with better mimicking skills than Rich Little is in your midst.
Finally 30 Days of Night is a vampire tale set in a town near the Arctic Circle where it goes dark for thirty days a year. It’s a cool concept and the wintry remoteness of the town adds a new layer to the usual vampire story.
Evil spirits, shape shifters and vampires; in the movies frostbite isn’t the worst thing that happens in the cold.