The Best Winter Horror to Watch After ‘True Detective: Night Country’

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Despite the record-high temperatures this winter, there is something undeniably frightening about the cold. Winter is always dreary, with the sun often hiding behind the clouds, but the briskness of the cold is something that can scare even the strongest-willed people. 

Despite warring criticisms of the show’s newest installment, True Detective: Night Country’s setting is undoubtedly one of the show’s most impactful aspects. The isolation each character faces is tethered to the environment they’re in, and the cool Alaskan weather settles into their bones like the ghosts they carry. winter-set horror films feel like they’re few and far between, usually traded in for fall or even the summer, but if Night Country is anything to go by, hopefully we’ll see more in the near future.

For now, here are 10 of the best winter set horror films (and miniseries) to watch if Night Country isn’t enough to stave off your yearnings.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

One of the most underrated horror films of the 2010s, Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the perfect “feel bad” film. Focusing on two young girls who stay at their elite prep school during winter break, only for one of them to be stalked by a haunting entity. It’s a slow burn and an intentional one at that. The frigid nature of the film is immediate, gripping hold of you as if Perkins himself is trying to devoid you of air. Just when you feel like you may be able to feel some type of warmth again, in the final minutes Perkins douses the viewer in a blanket of cold and unwavering stillness, leaving you in the company of only the film’s credits. 

Hold the Dark (2018)

Another underrated gem, Hold the Dark showcases a spellbinding performance from Jeffrey Wright. The actor stars as a naturalist who is blamed for killing a boy in town, and slowly becomes the center of an all-out rural war. In the film, the setting is just as important as the film’s main character, the stark atmosphere expertly paired with the film’s bleak disposition. In Hold the Dark, the terrain consumes not only its characters but the viewer as well, imbuing you in the isolating Alaskan tundra. Director Jeremy Saulnier was originally set to helm season 3 of True Detective, and if this film’s acts of violence are anything to go by, it would have perhaps been darker than any of the show’s previous installments. 

The Lodge (2020)

The film follows Grace (Riley Keough) a woman who gets snowed in on vacation with her fiancé’s two children. Forced to stay inside with only each other to keep them company, the two children begin to relentlessly play tricks on their new stepmother, unraveling themselves in the process. There’s something deeper at play here, and as Grace begins to lose her sanity a secret she’s been holding in slowly begins to unfurl. The bitter cold of the cabin they’re stuck in becomes a singular prison of Keough’s character, forcing her and the viewer to wonder if venturing outside would be safer. From Keough’s spectacular performance to a knock-out final reveal, The Lodge is one of the best Arctic horror films released in the last decade. 

The Thing (1982)

There’s nothing scarier than a film about an isolated scientific research team, but of this subgenre, The Thing takes the cake. Set in the frozen deserts of Antarctica, the film follows a group of American research scientists who discover a being who can take the shape of its victims. As the paranoia seeps into each character, they begin to question if they can truly trust each other, despite their frozen surroundings leaving them with no shelter outside of their base. Kurt Russell delivers a career-defining performance that tethers this sci-fi horror back to a truly terrifying reality. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021)

Although it’s the franchise’s seventh installment, ​​Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin may be the scariest in the series. The film follows Margot (Emily Bader), an aspiring journalist, who heads to a small Amish community with her friends to create a documentary about her estranged extended family. Once they arrive, it becomes clear that the community they’re documenting may not be what it seems, and Margot comes from a lineage plagued by secrets (and demons!). The isolated and frigid setting makes this film all the more scary, proving that these films don’t just have to take place in a suburban home. Maybe if Blumhouse expands their horizons, this series could continue. 

Crimson Peak (2015)

While the entire film is not set during the winter, Crimson Peak’s iconic climax does take place against a snowy backdrop. The genre-bending film tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) and her stifling love affair with the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Towards the end of the film, Edith walks upon the snow like a ghost, her pale nightgown trailing in the snow behind her, quickly becoming the striking image the film is most known for. The haunting aspects of Crimson Peak feel like the film should be set in this season for its entire runtime, gripping your heart like a cold wind, and not letting go until the film is finished. It’s one of director Guillermo Del Toro’s most polarizing films, but posthumously proves itself to also be one of his best. 

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

The film follows Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing), a British scientist who joins an expedition to the Himalayas in search of a yeti. But, what they find is not a stereotypical yeti like the ones featured in old Christmas specials. Instead, the yeti in this film are intelligent, and waiting out the humans’ undeniable demise in the brisk Asian mountain range. While it’s unlike any of the other films on this list, the low budget actually aids in the film’s immersiveness, forcing you to confront the blistering cold that the film’s characters do. It’s a quaint film, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful, even decades later.

Bleed With Me (2020)

A pitch-perfect film about the complications of female friendship, Bleed With Me is bound to become a Canadian cult-classic. The film focuses on Rowan (Lee Marshall), a young woman whose relationship with her friend Emily (Rowan Beatty), becomes strained during a winter getaway. As the cold begins to get to her, Rowan makes the assumption that Emily is actually trying to steal her blood in the night. As their relationship becomes more tense, the winds outside pick up, representing the crumbling foundations of not only Rowan’s friendship with Emily, but her own psyche as well. Director Amelia Moses expertly tackles the complications of female friendship, forcing her characters to confront their true natures along the way.

Pontypool (2008)

A sure-fire future Canadian classic, Pontypool follows a disc jockey who, when he arrives at work, learns that a mysterious illness has begun to turn people into zombies. 

Due to its low budget, Pontypool feels all the more immersive, allowing the film to feel like it could happen to you the viewer yourself. Because the infection spreads through language instead of physical bites, director Bruce McDonald takes what could have been a classic zombie flick and turns it into one of the best in its genre. The damp cold of the Canadian winter seeps into your bones, as does the dread that emanates from the film. It’s not until the very end of the movie that the zombies appear, but that doesn’t mean the film is devoid of tension. Instead, Pontypool quickly segments itself as not only one of the best Canadian horror films, but one of the best zombie films, too. 

The North Water (2021)

Andrew Haigh’s miniseries The North Water went relatively underseen during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there aren’t any shapeshifting ghouls or vampires to be seen, the characters in this series are scary enough on their own. The series follows Henry Dax (Colin Farrel), a vicious harpooner who finds refuge aboard the Volunteer. He quickly finds himself at odds with the ship’s doctor Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) and their rivalry quickly spirals into a relationship filled with rage and violence. Like the characters in the series, it’s impossible not to become sucked into The North Water’s frozen setting. From excellent performances to its stunning cinematography, this miniseries is an underrated gem that deserves to be seen. 

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