Five of the best horror films to watch in the winter

As the weather starts to chill and in many states the snow piles up, some of you horror fans maybe susceptible to a bit of the old cabin fever. Luckily, I'm here to give you some recommendations to throw on to keep you from going insane, or maybe these flicks will make you lose your mind even faster. Either way, here are five horror flicks that always hit the spot when the temperatures start to drop.
On the set of The Shining
On the set of The Shining / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

1. The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)
Copyright 2004 Salem Statesman

The Shining is a film about isolation with family as the snow grows higher and higher outside, while tensions inside do the same. Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror sensation stars Shelly Duvall and seems pretty fitting to kick off this list with the classic tale of cabin fever gone deadly. The film follows Jack Torrance, a struggling writer trying to stay sober as he and his family are appointed to take care of the beautiful yet haunting Overlook Hotel for the winter. Snowed in and with sinister forces at play, Jack begins to lose grip on his sanity. The film is a staple of the horror genre is probably one of the most iconic films of all time, which makes it even more funny that Stephen King, author of the book it's based on, absolutely hates it.

The Stanley Kubrick masterpiece of the Stephen King classic is undoubtedly divisive among diehard fans of Kings work, its undeniable that it captures that isolated eeriness associated with the dead of winter. While most would want to watch something warm and fuzzy as the nights get colder, I still try to throw on Kubrick's cold hearted classic every time the temperature starts to drop.

The Shining is streaming on Sling TV

2. The Lodge (2019)

Riley Keough at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival - "The Lodge" Premiere
George Pimentel/GettyImages

The 2019 slow burn The Lodge seems to fly under the radar for many horror fans, and I can’t quite see why. The film itself is a quiet, creepy and sinister flick. Starring Riley Keough as Grace Marshall with Jaeden Martell, and Lia McHugh as Aidan and Mia Hall respectively, the film follows a soon to be step-mother and survivor of a mass suicide cult as she attempts to bond with her fiancé's two children at a remote cabin over the winter. Riley, still reeling from her traumatic experience in her father's cult, begins to spiral into insanity from the isolation with the two kids and believes more sinister forces are at play.

That's about as much as I care to give for the plot before cutting into spoiler territory, and this is a film that should be seen as spoiler free as possible. Riley Keough helms an amazing performance that is only strengthened by her younger co-stars. The films pacing is nearly perfect as it allows the audience to sit and wallow in the quiet winter storm backdropping the psychological torment plaguing our protagonists. The atmosphere and fantastic performances paired with the films use of religious imagery and psychological trauma might not make it the best film the throw on when the family comes to visit this holiday season, but if you’re looking for something to embody that dreary and eerie winter feeling then look no further.

The Lodge is streaming on Max.

3. Gremlins (1984)

On the set of Gremlins
On the set of Gremlins / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

The 1984 creature feature Gremlins has solidified itself in horror (and greater film) history as a fun 80s flick. Billy, who was gifted a mysterious creature as a Christmas gift by his father fails to follow the only three rules that come with the creature and must stop the ravenous consequences from destroying his town on Christmas. The film is filled with amazing special effects, fun performances, sappy melodramatic monologues and a handful and gnarly visuals. The film stars Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller and Jonathan Banks (cool right?).

While Gremlins is more of a Christmas flick (which would be a different list) I still hold firm that the films imagery works for whenever the weather begins to chill. The film's mischievous but lovable titular characters wreak havoc on the snow covered small town of Kingston Falls, while Billy and his new pet Gizmo must stop them. Joe Dante's amazing direction, the timeless puppetry of the Gremlins, and the wintery blue colors throughout the film assure that Gremlins is a classic to throw on every holiday season.

Gremlins is streaming on Max

4. The Thing (1982)

\"The Thing,\" Friday, June 25, 1982

1982 The Thing
\"The Thing,\" Friday, June 25, 1982 1982 The Thing / Jeff Faughender, Courier Journal

John Carpenters The Thing, a remake of 1950s The Thing From Outer Space lives in infamy amongst horror fans, this is mostly due to its intense practical effects of the titular villain "The Thing" as it takes different horrifying forms and shapes while devouring the science crew researching in the arctic. As a horror fan, a lot of people find it hard to believe I only just watched this film for the first time last year. Going in I was naturally nervous that the decade's worth of hype would lead to disappointment, and I'm happy to report that John Carpenters shape shifting terror is as great as people have been saying for over 40 years, and then some. Now, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you saying this is the ideal film to put on while snowed in with your family, but I’ll be damned if it wouldn't make a memorable family movie night.

Overall The Thing is a frostbitten feast of brutality, with its highlighted show stopper being the immaculate practical effects used to bring the monster and its many horrendous forms to life. However, the films pacing also shines throughout the runtime and building of tension. The characters stuck frantically pointing fingers at each other wondering who is the wolf in sheep's clothing, halting to one of the most dreary and tense endings in a horror film. Whether it's your first or hundredth time watching John Carpenters The Thing, it never makes for a bad winters night watch.

The Thing is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video

5. Misery (1990)

James Caan, Kathy Bates
"Misery" Premiere / Barry King/GettyImages

It feels fitting to have both Misery and The Shining serve as bookends to this list. Both of them adaptations of Stephen King following the struggles of a writer as he is snowed in and left at the mercy of a sinister force. However while the tormenters of Jack Torrance are that of an intense supernatural force, the tormenter of Paul Sheldon is as real as it gets… a horrifically obsessed super-fan. The film stars James Caan as captured writer Paul Shelley and Kathy Bates as the psychotic superfan of Shelley's work Annie Wilkes. The film is also directed by Rob Reiner, a filmmaker who is no stranger to Stephen Kings work as seen in his amazing adaptation of Stand By Me.

Misery is the epitome of a great snow day film, especially for the horror fan. The log cabin atmosphere, the beautiful winter scenery, the hospitality of Kathy Bates, the film exudes such a cozy feeling when it's not being absolutely disturbing and violent. There isn't too much I can say about this film that hasn't been said before, it's a creepy and eerie masterpiece helmed by two brilliant actors locked in a cold blooded power struggle. Kathy Bates performance lives on in history and cements her as one of the best performances in a King adaptation. Overall, Misery makes for a wonderful watch for this time of year, especially with your favorite writer held captive to watch it with.

Misery is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Hopefully these five titles keep you warm and sane for the winter. If not, hopefully the chills from these flicks are better than the chills from the cold. For more horror recommendations and reviews check out more of my work here on 1428 Elm. If you want even more you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Letterboxd. You can also find me on my horror podcast Talking Terror, where I sit with genre professionals and talk some terror, streaming via YouTube and Spotify.

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