Trapped inside with a crazed killer or alone in the wilderness with a monster? That’s the root conflict behind Winterskin, the new film from High Octane and Dark Temple Films. Young Billy Cavanagh (David Lenik) is on the hunt through the frozen tundra for something unnatural when he stumbles across a seemingly abandoned cabin and is shot by its current occupant, Mama Agnes (Rowena Bentley). Isolated by an almost impenetrable blanket of snow and forest, on the far flung edge of civilization there have been gruesome murders and inhuman acts of savagery. As Billy tries to recover from an injury and hunt this evil, he realizes too late that the most terrifying monster of them all may be the woman he’s trapped with.
Winterskin is an interesting story and there’s a lot to unpack in the plot but I need to address the elephant in the room before we move on. This is not a creature feature. Despite marketing materials, posters, and a trailer that would suggest otherwise, the only monsters you’ll find are human beings and that’s a bit upsetting. See, this movie is marketed like a monster flick with a hearty dose of crazed killer. I mean, look at the poster.
I can't lie, I was expecting Snow C.H.U.D.s
And of course the press release blurb:
“Gunned down in the snowy wilderness and desperate for shelter, Billy Cavanagh is taken in by kooky old lady Agnes, unaware that her isolated log cabin is being stalked by a bloodthirsty skinless creature hellbent on getting inside.”
And the IMDB storyline by director Charlies Steeds doesn't compounds matters:
"Whilst hunting in the snowy wilderness, Billy takes refuge in a seemingly abandoned log cabin when he suffers a shotgun wound to the leg. Inside, kind and kooky lone inhabitant, old lady Agnes, is keen to nurse Billy back to health. But Billy soon learns this is no ordinary cabin, for he and Agnes are stalked by bloodthirsty skinless creatures that lurk in the surrounding forest, leaving them trapped together inside the cabin in a fight to stay alive."
That said, I’m not disappointed by what I watched, just taken aback. I went into this expecting a monster movie and I got something totally different. The story, regardless, is engaging and interesting and there are moments that will have you scooting to the edge of your seat in anticipation. Shot like an early 80’s B horror flick, Winterskin offers some breathtaking winter vistas. The make-up and practical effects are fun and gruesome as well with plenty of blood splattering, skin ripping, cannibalistic terror for all the gorehounds out there. The music is also worth noting, an interesting blend of orchestral and synthetic tones that, while at times are an odd mix for the story itself, are nonetheless enjoyable.
Other than the confused marketing, there are issues with lighting, audio quality, and performance that make the film hard to watch at times. The dialogue feels forced and the characters are either muffled by the musical score or seem unnaturally pitched in the setting. Some characters seem to be whispering while others are shouting in high definition audio that throws off the tone of the scene. The performances themselves also feel a bit wooden and uncertain.
In all, Winterskin is a fun, cannibal horror story that has elements reminiscent of the Hinterkaifeck murder mystery of the early 1920’s. It’s definitely worth a watch when it hits streaming services on May 21st.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan on social media @dotdblog and read his stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.