Warning: Contains some spoilers
Horror fans, you know there is no better way to approach an isolated winter than throwing on a flick, turning off the lights and getting cozy under a blanket.
It’s December. Ten months into a pandemic, lockdowns are looming — or underway — and our bubbles are shrinking each day.
It might seem nuts to non-horror aficionados to seek out unsettling movies that may pique your already anxious and isolated self. But to horror buffs, this can be a cathartic outlet that allows you to explore your feelings and our overall response to fear and isolation.
After all, horror is really a reflection of cultural and societal anxieties.
The Shining (1980)
A classic Kubrick film from 1980, The Shining is really the king of winter isolation films. A former schoolteacher and recovering alcoholic, Jack Torrance, accepts a job as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel. An aspiring writer, Jack believes this secluded resort will be the perfect place to work on a book while his wife Wendy and son Danny tag along for the trip.
From the outset you know Jack is not a stable, loving individual, but the hotel begins to really bring out the worst in him. Ghost bartenders feed Jack an endless supply of bourbon while his son is assaulted by visions of dead children, murdered by their father — the last caretaker of the Overlook.
A winter storm further isolates Wendy and Danny. As Jack begins to unravel, we lose track of time and our grip on what is real or not. Kubrick rides the line between cabin fever and the supernatural, leaving it up to viewer interpretation to decide what is eroding Jack’s already tenuous grip on reality.
Throw on a black turtleneck, pour a glass of bourbon and crank up the fireplace for this classic film that deals psychological isolation and strained family relations.
The Lodge (2019)
The most recent release on the list, The Lodge also deals with family trauma and isolating snow storms. Two children head to their family cabin with their dad, Richard, and his new fiancé, Grace, for the Christmas vacation.
Grace is the only surviving member of an extremist cult and is still recovering from her childhood trauma. Richard — a pseudo-academic whose research includes extremist cults — leaves his children and Grace in the cabin while he heads back to the city for work.
Grace wakes up to find the power is out, the Christmas decorations are gone, the food has been removed from the fridge and all of the family’s belongings have vanished — including medication she desperately needs.
Plagued by hallucinations and lost time, everyone becomes very desperate as food begins to run out and the kids begin to act strangely.
Don your toque, deck the halls and throw on The Lodge for a decent exploration of gaslighting, trauma and psychosis.
The Thing (1982)
Classic 80s sci-fi horror, John Carpenter’s The Thing is perfect for this pandemic winter. It’s cold. It’s isolated. People that don’t really like each other are forced to live together. An infection is spreading through the camp caused by a creature that can mimic other lifeforms. It’s a bit like looking into a mirror, minus the alien.
Jaded pilot MacReady takes charge of the situation, leading the quest to figure out who’s still themselves and who may be “the thing” ready to sprout tentacles and take on its next host.
This movie has something for everyone. Flamethrowers, sled dogs and spectacular practical effects for those into good ol’ body horror.
So, throw on your sunglasses, hike up your Long Johns and pour a tall glass of Irish Whiskey before settling down for a tense and gory journey into arctic isolation. It may be the truest reflection of ourselves right now.
In the words of MacReady:
“Nobody trusts anybody now and we are all very tired.”
Erin Matthews | Communications Director
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