Initially released at the Soho Horror Film Festival in London back in November of last year, the British film Winterskin gets a North American DVD release on Tuesday, May 21st thanks to High Octane Pictures.
Written and directed by Charlie Steeds (Escape From Cannibal Farm 2017, The Barge People 2018), Winterskin properly begins with a father and son hunting in the snow when the son, Billy Kavanaugh (David Lenick: Deadman Apocalypse 2016, The Barge People 2018), is mistakenly shot in the leg and incapacitated. He gets separated from his dad, but is rescued by the film’s other lead, Agnes (Rowena Bentley: Eat The Rich 1987, The House of Violent Desire 2018), who takes the wounded young man to her cabin and patches him up.
Most of the film takes place here as the two main characters get to know each other. It turns out Agnes was the shooter and has good reason to be a little trigger happy; she knows about the skinless killer out in the wilderness and has been terrorized by it before. She has also seen its blood-shod footprints around her cabin and glimpsed it through the trees. However, the more time Billy spends recovering, the more uncomfortable the entire situation gets.
A story that is somewhat reminiscent of 1987’s Misery, you quickly learn that Agnes is less than sane. Billy grows stir crazy from being locked up at the mercy of another and wary that Anges seems hell-bent on taking out the monster herself rather than calling for help. The woods are remote but not unpopulated, and Agnes’ state of mind changes for the worse the closer Billy gets to recovery.
Hitting certain Horror elements well, but leaves unanswered questions and plot holes, Steeds does a decent job of building the mostly unseen terror of the skinless, as well as the hopeless isolation of the snowy woods. Additionally, the cast performances are good – Agnes is wonderfully demented if a little bit over the top hokey with her accent and delivery, but it does not feel out of place, and Billy is a solid, sympathetic protagonist who has a lot of pain and suffering to covey, which Lenick does well. These aspects in mind, the cinematography is also quite good for a smaller budget film and the violence is strong and well done. In fact, the practical effects used for gunshots and other wounds are especially refreshing among the hollow CGI effects that dominate the industry.
That said, Winterskin is not without flaws. Some of the dialogue choices range from odd to downright cringe. It is also not unusual to misunderstand character motivations in a story like this until the later parts, but there is an overall sense of dissatisfaction of understanding who they really are. Most of all, there is that same feeling with the skinless. Furthermore, there is an important but unreconciled supernatural element to Winterskin that ultimately brings the film down.
In the end, Winterskin is an interesting little Horror film with some good ideas, but is hit and miss on their execution. The setting, characters, and tone will draw viewers in right away, but it does lose steam in the third act. This world is scary and dangerous, and that is all the more reason why the unexplored evil is disappointing.
Clocking in at about 80 minutes, Winterskin does not drag much at all, so it is worth a rental for those looking for a quaint Indie Horror experience on a rainy afternoon. That is why Cryptic Rock gives it 3 out of 5 stars.
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