There’s something in the snow…

Winterskin (UK 2018) Dir: Charlie Steeds

David Lenik, Rowena Bentley, Barrington De La Roche, Peter Cosgrove, Kate Davies Speak

In the frozen wilds of North America, Billy Cavanagh (Lenik) becomes separated from his father (Cosgrove) while on a deer hunting expedition.

Chancing upon a secluded cabin, Billy is shot in the leg by persons unknown, and awakes inside to find himself being nursed by the kooky Mama Agnes (Bentley.)

With no means of communicating with the outside world and temporarily crippled by his leg wound, Billy is warned by Agnes not to venture outside after dark for fear of being attacked and killed by a malevolent creature she cals ‘the Red Man’. Later Billy lets out Agnes’ dog, only for the animal to turn up dead on the doorstep after having being skinned.

The following night, Billy is attacked in the cabin by a hideous skinless humanoid creature and barely survives the encounter.

Meanwhile, a band of hunters led by Old Man Ruth (de la Roche) are scouring the wilderness looking for Billy and his father…

The third feature from upcoming British indie production house Dark Temple Motion Pictures is a tightly paced slice of isolation horror that mashes up elements of the likes of MISERY, SOUTHERN COMFORT and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but which exhibits just enough of its own original DNA and stylistic elan to prevent it becoming just another forgettable bargain bin horror flick.

Writer and director Charlie Steeds here concentrates on establishing a fast moving and efficient narrative, and coaxes scenery chomping performances from both Bentley and de la Roche respectively (the climactic confrontation is the film’s highlight.) Newcomer Lenik is also admirable, anchoring the narrative as the increasingly tense and paranoid Billy starts to realise that all is not quite as it may seem…

Despite a plot twist you can spot a mile off, Steeds pared down script and confident direction keeps your attention, and bodes well for future Dark Temple output.

Although the studio’s third feature after ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM and THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE, I haven’t yet been able to secure copies of these movies to review yet. The former is set go be released this year by 88 Films, so look out for a review soon (hopefully!) I mention this as it’s difficult to glean from watching WINTERSKIN whether Steeds has yet managed to impress a ‘house style’ on his movies yet, as despite marketing Dark Temple’s output as ‘retro horror’, such a ‘feel’ doesn’t come across that strongly.

This is a very minor quibble it has to be said, and WINTERSKIN boasts some strong performances from its cast, conjures up a foreboding yet strangely ethereal atmosphere on a limited budget, and frankly original horror output of this quality from an indie start up outfit is something that we should all be roundly encouraging.

As far as I can tell at the time writing, Dark Temples’ next release will be the fantastic looking THE BARGE PEOPLE headlined by the wonderful Kate Davies Speak (here making a cameo.) Check out the intense trailer at the Facebook page or head over to the Dark Temple website here.

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