Dead Of Winter (2007)

DECEMBER 27, 2008

GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

The only reason I rented Dead Of Winter (aka Lost Signal), besides the awesome “It looks like Duel but in the snow” cover art, is because it was directed by Brian McNamara, who was the nemesis/fonzanoon in Caddyshack II and also popped up in Arachnophobia. I found it somewhat amusing that he turned to directing (he also appears as the sheriff), and was curious to see if his directing style was as non-descript as his acting. Unfortunately, Spielberg himself couldn’t make a good movie out of this script, so whatever directing skill he may possess is pretty hard to critique based on this drivel.

One thing he needs to learn is proper lighting though (or how to yell at his DP for such errors). The outdoor scenes are OK, but interiors are overlit to the point of blindness:

Christ, I’ve seen pornos with more natural lighting.

He also needs to get his ego checked at the door. The full on-screen title is actually Brian McNamara’s Dead Of Winter, as if he was John Carpenter or something. First of all, he's not John Carpenter. Christ, this is his first movie! Second: putting your name in the title is kind of ballsy when you were not one of the producers and/or writers on the film. If you look at the Carpenter films, he only puts his name on the title when he did something BESIDES direct, i.e. write or producer or hell, even merely composing. When he DOESN’T do any of those other things, his name stays off (See: Memoirs of an Invisible Man).

He should also reprimand his props guy, because early on we see a fridge with a “Lost Cat” poster on it. Uh... shouldn’t that be outside? Unless your home is the stomping grounds for all stray cats, it’s not going to do much good to anyone as long as it’s only visible to hungry family members.

But the real problem with the film is how nonsensically set up it is. We know that the two kids are merely hallucinating because of the crystal meth they snorted, yet the entire movie hinges on the idea that we believe the kids are really in danger from snow plows and killers and such. Plus, their hallucinations go on for about 6 hours, despite only snorting a single line of the stuff. (hallucinations aren't even a primary side effect of crystal meth, and only then in high doses, which I would think a single line would not count as). So you spend the entire movie wondering why screenwriters Robert Egen and Graham Silver couldn’t be bothered to have them use a drug known for strong/long-lasting hallucinations, such as LSD. Then, about five minutes before the film ends, we learn via flashback that LSD was indeed added to their (one) drink. Why was this information hidden from the audience? It’s not like it’s a twist or anything, and it simply results in explaining something that had probably caused most of the audience to lose all interest in the narrative (NOTE - Apparently there is a shot of this early on, that I missed. I was wrong. Movie still sucks).

Not helping matters are our annoying leads, both of whom I wanted to freeze to death before they even went into the snow. They spend the entire movie yelling at each other, talking nonsense, or shrieking at a killer that’s not really there. At one point the boy half of the couple makes a tired Shining reference, and then yells “Didn’t you see that movie?” Yes, and I wish I was watching it again right now, instead of enduring the 45th “guy yells at his girlfriend” scene in this movie. Plus, they are both drug users, which makes them hard to sympathize with. Let ‘em rot.

Also, beware of any movie in which the casting is done by one of the producers, because you end up with mother-daughter pairs that couldn’t look less alike:


Sure.

The real bummer of it all is that the finale is actually kind of sad. There’s a dumb and uninspired little twist that apparently took the red eye from horror movie land, but otherwise, the final five minutes play out like a tragic drama, and damned if I didn’t feel kind of bad for McNamara’s character, as well as the kids’ respective parents. Since it’s essentially an R rated horror version of an after-school special, I fully expected this sort of “SEE WHAT DRUGS CAN CAUSE!” wrapup, but it was still somewhat moving.

What everyone in the production failed at though, was making any one moment in the film even half as creepy and unnerving as the transcript of the 911 call made by the people that this really happened to (yes, for possibly the first time in ages, the “based on true events” disclaimer at the top of the film isn’t bullshit). Obviously, if you read the news report I linked, you will get the end of the movie kind of spoiled, but unless you are a Brian McNamara completist, there’s no reason to watch the movie anyway other than to learn what happened to the kids, and the article does just that, sans bad lighting.

What say you?

16 comments:

  1. I think I'd like to see an anthology series where every cast member of the cadyshack films makes a 20 minute entry.

    Just t see what would happen.

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  2. Reading the transcript of the 911 call, they had a great premise to work off of. Too bad they half assed it.

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  3. Could have been a good film judging by the news report,but I admit I want to watch it now.I like anti-drug films,pro-drug films and films that aren't about drugs at all but the dp/editor/director/actors must have been consuming heavily to come up with the train crash on screen.
    And alcohol,caffiene and nicotine are drugs too.

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  4. um, you do know about the LSD in the beginning of the movie.. they show him adding it to their drinks.

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  5. I disagree completely about this movie. It was very well done for a low budget release and the acting was all top notch and very believable, IMO.

    Also highly disagree with the comments about the directing and lighting. IMO, this looked great and looked like a Hell of a lot more was spent than $2 Million.

    Not sure why so many disliked this film.

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  6. Umm... whos the moron who wrote this article?? You clearly didnt pay attention to the movie at all. Cause IF you paid attention you would know that they didnt just do a line of meth, but were slipped LSD in the shots they did right after they took the line. Who the fuck sniffs a line of that shit anyway. Much better to smoke it...

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  7. I read your post while watching the movie and decided to stop watching the movie. Thank you.

    Aside from the lighting, the camera was way too close to everyone's face. Especially the boyfriends'. There was a sequence when they were still in the car and the shots were flipping back and forth between the two characters as they talked and each time the boyfriend's face would be TOO BIG and framed so that it was about 80% of the screen. Conversely, the girlfriend's face and head were completely fine.

    Also the lamentable "I'm High" ghost effect that was supposed to be Hallucination Vision was.... well, the second time it happened was when I decided to stop.

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  8. Okay, I have two complaints. My friend and I noticed two scenes where something was either missing or put back on. One was where Kevin said he was missing his shoe, and it was put back on him, and two, is where Tiffany had Danni's cop coat on and when she went through the trees, it was off, then when she got to the house, it was back on. What kind of JANK scene is that?

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  9. I'm watching this now...it's ridiculous. You see it coming from a mile away. Also, I especially saw it because this "true event" was in my state. Also, they show the LSD being put into the shots.

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  10. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and I respect this review and reviewer, however, I have to defend myself on one aspect of the review. You might not have any idea how difficult it is to get a movie sold and distributed... Well, it is. Among the many hoops we had to jump through was the title. The distribution Co put my name above the title because there had already been a DEAD OF WINTER. As a first time director(even as a tenth time director) I would NEVER put my name above the title!! I'm just a guy trying to make the best movie I could given what I had to work with. I'll ALWAYS be grateful for the opportunity. As I said, I think alot of the comments in this review were very astute and spot on and.... I actually learned from them. Thanks!

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  11. I have to agree with the "person" who wrote,
    "Did you not pay ATTENTION to the part AT THE BEGINNING, where u see him pour some clear liquid from a little vial, into the shot glasses, in the reddish colored drink?" It's obvious it's not JUST crystal Meth they use.My God, The movie made perfect sense!...And the remark about the lighting!?? The lighting..HUM, Dark..YEAH IT IS DARK..because..It's night you bloody moron. And the Mother/Daughter not looking alike, How many people DO NOT look like their parents??? I know a few. So Brian Mcamara.. He is ALSO BALLSY? Due to the fact he put his name at the beginning, like a "heavy hitter", such as John Carpenter? Who made John Carpenter into..a league in which STEPHEN KING, has probably the only authority to pull that BALLSY move. Not to mention, this flick was BASED on true events..So therefore. It was better than any John Carpenter CRAP he comes up with at times. So take your BS...BACK at ya. If you cannot handle the criticism you receive..(Although you do not mind dishing out). WATCH, PAY ATTENTION..to a movie before you shoot your mouth off, and then get lippy when people of a more intelligent kind, let you know...You're the only confused moron:)The movie was great..well done!

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  12. Where did I get lippy? This is the first time I've even replied to this review. And yeah, I missed a detail in the movie, something I amended my review to point out. So I haven't the foggiest idea what you're going on about.

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  13. What is the song that plays at the end of the movie it says something like " we all live in a lie" or something like that please can anyone tell me what song it is ?

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  14. Yeah, leave Brian alone, brother, and get yer facts straight. Anyway, I thought it was coke they were snorting, but they snorted way too fast (at 'bump' speed as opposed to line speed) and all the crazy hallucination stuff was dead on - if the snow plow didn't turn on its lights and moved without any sound, that would have been better, such as when those mute lawn-jockey figures stand there and then seem to just disappear. Anyway, Brian if you're listening, good work! I'll be reviewing it on my site soon

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    Replies
    1. The refer to it as crystal meth IN the movie, like they say the actual words. The guy says Randy or whoever scored some crystal meth...

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  15. I came upon this review while looking for an explanation to the movie and I find it really odd that no one else is talking about "what the fuck happened in the end?!"

    So, the ending, what the hell? Am I just being stupid here and missing something?

    Was Randy in on it, because he only dosed the shot Kevin drinks? Why?

    Was Tiffany trying to frame Kevin, why or what for? Why did she kill the deputy, Danny? Was she expecting to blame that on Kevin? If so why keep the razor blade and not plant it on Kevin? Did she plan on Kevin dying? If so why frame him for murder? There is now way she knew he would die the way he did...jumping down the chimney, or whatever. Why didn't she kill him and claim self defense, use the razor perhaps?

    None of the scenes where Tiffany is acting like she is tripping (voices in her head, etc), especially when she was alone, make any sense if she wasn't on LSD. Are they saying she was just crazy?

    However, sense it was all Tiffany then the scene with the snow or chasing Kevin makes sense. Also Kevin hearing that Tiffany was going to kill him when he was on the phone with Nancy, 911 dispatch, was kind of accurate. Haha!

    Anyway, either I'm missing something, something simple, or this movie made no sense.

    None if the ending to this movie made any sense! The article link is down so I am not able to read that. Did that article have anything to do with the couple that froze to death in their car because they were meth addicts? That's a little different than doing a small line of meth one time. Also, that still leaves me baffled as to the ending.

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