PREVIEW: Winterskin

By Jordan Gerdes

DISCLAIMER: I was provided an advanced copy of this film for review. I was under no obligations by any party to provide favorable reviews, promotion, or anything else. I was offered no monetary compensation for my work. Everything below is of my own accord.

Winterskin is an interesting feature. Directed by Charlie Steeds, Winterskin is equal parts slow burn isolationism and western horror, with nods to both spaghetti westerns and splatter horror. A young man and his father are separated in the woods, when he happens upon a cabin. As he reaches for the door, he is shot through the leg and passes out. Upon awaking, he is greeted by Agnes, played by Rowena Bentley, who has taken him in to nurse him to health. She warns him about what lurks in the woods and why she is boarded herself up in the cabin, a skinless creature that is hunting Agnes.

Things quickly take a turn from bad to worse as the plot follows a Misery meets Evil Dead vibe. There is a lot going on in this film, and Charlie Steed takes a ton of chances with this one. While someviewers will be bogged down by the over exposition of the story, and the extremely slow burn sequences between the action, there is a lot of good to come out of this movie.

First is the character of Agnes, played brilliantly by Rowena Bentley. She takes Kathy Bates portrayal of Annie Wilkes and doubles the crazy, while leaving the sane portion in the dust. Whether it’s the wild looks, the crazed appearance, or her monologue, the character of Agnes feels dangerously close to snapping at every second of the film. It’s really well done.

Secondly, the practical effects are pretty great. When I said it feels like a spaghetti western, it definitely takes a huge influence from hyper violent Italian horror westerns. Whether it’s globs of blood flying from exit wounds, or limbs dismembered, each act of violence has a extremely practical indie feel to it. It reminds me of 70s gore, thick and plentiful.

Third, the soundtrack is awesome. Composed by S.T.R.S.G.N, the scoring is synthy, with hints of classic strings as well. It feels extremely John Carpenter in all the best ways. I really enjoy scores like this one. I’m currently listening to it while writing this up.

There are some misfires with this film, of course, but none of them detracted from my enjoyment of it. One is the American accents are all over the place. I’m fairly certain most of the actors and actresses are British, being a Charlie Steeds (Escape From Cannibal Farm) film, as well as recognizing a quick role by Kate Davies Speak (Cannibal Farm, The Barge People). The accents aren’t like parody bad, they just seem weird at times. It makes me think that just placing this in Europe would be easier. Another thing is the time period. It seems semi current, prefaced by clothes and radios and such, but much of the clothing and weapons make it feel very much pioneer era. Again not a big deal, just kind of threw me for a loop at times.

The story is engaging and interesting enough, even if the run time feels a little long. But again, it is an enjoyable film and they had a lot of fun with it. It feels like an amalgamation between The Hateful Eight, Evil Dead, Misery, and Cold Skin. The cinematography is beautiful for the interior shots, sparking a lot of Hateful Eight comparisons, I do however wish that the same love was put into the exterior shots as well in terms of lighting and framing.

Winterskin is an isolated horror western that features imagery that will make your skin crawl. Built upon a solid performance by Rowena Bentley, this is a retro gem. If you dig westerns, skinless creatures, and slow burn isolation, check this film out.

Winterskin is being released by High Octane Pictures and Dark Temple Films digitally on May 21.

Plot Details:
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. From Dark Temple Films, and also starring Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Kate Davies-Speak, John Lomas, Harrison Nash and Dylan Curtis.

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