Summer’s too uncomfortable. Monsoon and spring call for stepping out. And so, winter is the ideal time to binge—both on food and TV. Tuck yourself nicely into bed with food and/or drink and watch your chills away. In a year when getting out isn’t as safe as it used to be, we’ve got a list for you that’ll let you witness unspeakable horrors unfold in backdrops of endless swathes of white. This December, give the drab corniness of happy film blanc a miss and instead watch Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet share an awkward date night on a sheet of ice. Don’t worry, it’ll snow on you. We mean grow on you.
The Shining (1980)
Of course, it’s not all about how Jack Nicholson ends up—blue, buried upright in frost and very dead—after his psychotic final pursuit of his wife and son. The Shining is a movie that grows more tantalizing with every watch, and one reason why it happens is that it’s the perfect cabin-fever movie. The happy weather of the time he applies for the caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel makes way for the harsh winter when the phone lines go bad—the isolation and lassitude getting to the protagonist’s vulnerable head pretty soon. From the doomed family’s adorable sweaters, their son watching TV as a storm rages outside, to the snowy Rockies cradling the hotel and the cold madness and omens of disaster, The Shining is a nice stand-in for the outdoors chill.
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Not much of screen material has exploited the winter landscape to its advantage as much as Fargo has. Filmed in Dakota and Minnesota, this thriller blanc is a visual treat, providing a snowy canvas for its gory tapestry, effected majorly by Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi, who play hitmen. Rarely has the cold been so effective in conveying the genre on-screen than in this Coen Brothers movie. The colour tones contribute to the cold atmosphere and so do the iconic hunting cap and huge overcoat worn by the investigating officer played by Frances McDormand. Watch out for the wood-chipper scene.
Wind River (2017)
There’s something about watching a chilling procedural unfold in frosty backdrops. And this moody, atmospheric and stylish 2017 procedural-style western, set in the snowy expanses of the Wyoming winter, is a great example. A steady, borderline-brooding Jeremy Renner provides a great contrast to the bitter cold of the Wind River Reservation, which has quite a dubious distinction thanks to its crazy crime rate and horrific homicides even in real life.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Well, to be honest, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet lying on a cracked sheet of ice on a wintry evening isn’t actually as awkward. The premise of the Michael Gondry masterpiece resonates with those who struggle to cope with the dullness and discomfort of winter. The movie isn’t so much about a couple opting to have their memories erased as it is about the hypothesis of such a possibility. The cold hits one visually here, in the form of Joel’s hobo beanies, Clementine’s ‘Blue Ruin’ hair, the surreal bed-on-the-beach sequence where the lovers wake up on a sandy shore that looks like an icy desert and the concurrent atmosphere of pessimism.
Nordic Noir: Insomnia (1998) and The Hunt (2012)
A movie about a mysterious police officer investigating a murder in a city above the Arctic Circle should be an easy decision to make any time of the year, but savouring it on a cold, sunless day would be delicious, we promise. The intense Stellan Skarsgard plays Swedish Detective Jonas who has arrived in the midnight-sun land of Norway to decode a murder but thanks to his own, insomnia-stricken state of mind, slips into a delirium of his own when things go awry on a field trip. FYI, the movie is set in the summer. But you’ll know.
The Hunt, on the other hand, is set in a scenic Danish village in the backdrop of Christmas, and is shot in part-sepia tones more indicative of late autumn. Kindergarten teacher Lucas is shunned by the local community after a pupil’s allegations of molestation against him. The setting and mood are perfect for the progressively heightening environment of coldness around Lucas and his ostracism from society.
Another Stephen King adaptation in the mix. Honestly, this creepy Rob Reiner thriller doesn’t even need the crazy snowstorm at the beginning—the antagonist, played by the unbelievable is Kathy Bates, is that scary. The film, with Bates’ snow-covered, secluded house, was shot in the quaint town of Genoa, Nevada, even though most of the scenes are filmed indoors. If the cold doesn’t get you the goosepimples, Misery will.
The Thing (1982)
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Of course we mean the older movie—not the 2011 remake. The premise is quite simple—a group of scientists working at a base camp in the bitter sub-zeroes of Antarctica are confounded by a vicious shape-shifting alien that assumes the form of whoever it consumes. Though a low-budget, campy piece, The Thing can quite a winter nightmare to willfully undergo, and the environment weighs heavy with claustrophobia, terror and loneliness. The movie, much like its title, can evoke vague, mixed feelings among viewers but when it comes to heightening the delirium and bleakness of winter, it triumphs.
In Bruges (2008)
This adorable Martin McDonagh crime caper enjoys the writer’s special attention even though it breaks the mold of the dark winter movie we have so far created. However, Bruges, where it is set (duh), can be quite cold during Christmas, and the two unlikely hitmen, also the lead pair, are a particularly thoughtful pair. Colin Farrell’s twitchy, guilt-stricken wanderings through a festive Bruges could be an emotional trigger, though, but his eventual redemption makes up for it. In more ways than one, the movie also serves as a video travel guide that moves frantically through the picturesque city, with its medieval bell tower, 12th-century canals that even leave a murderous crime boss fetching his guide map, cobblestoned streets lit by wayside lamps and street-side cafés with chairs laid out in the open.
Bollywood Winter: Lootera (2013) and Haider (2014)
I know, our list just broke character but the chill needn’t just be about Alaska and northern Europe. Lootera, an underrated romance that could leave you glum and blue for weeks, is just the kind of winter feeling that we’re talking about. The first half of the film is set and filmed in scenic Purulia in the summer, but in the second, the visual tone of the film takes over colder, tungsten tones, as the two protagonists move to snowy Dalhousie. Watching Ranveer Singh capsize before the storm in the song Zinda Hoon Yaar can be devastating.
Haider, directed by Bollywood’s own Shakespeare specialist Vishal Bhardwaj, is set in Srinagar, Kashmir, our own counterpart to the Denmark of the original Hamlet. The air is singed with distrust and bad blood as the eponymous Haider, played by a paler-than-usual Shahid Kapoor, falls deeper and deeper into madness, with the poignant Kashmir winter serving as the backdrop. The gravediggers’ scene is at another level altogether.