Writer/director Charlie Steeds has a fair few films to his name. The House of Violent Desire, Erotic Green, The Barge People and many others. Unfortunately if Winterskin is a good example of what he’s capable of, then it’s rather difficult to recommend seeking out any of his other work.
Winterskin tells the story of Billy Cavanagh (David Lenik) who, while out in the wilds with his father, gets separated, and is shot and wounded by a woman calling herself Agnes (Rowena Bentley). She takes him in to care for his wounds but it quickly becomes obvious that she won’t let him leave, claiming that something is stalking them and trying to get inside to kill them both. Said something is a skinless, bloody, shambling abomination that is, admittedly, a nicely done practical effect. There are definite hints of Stephen King’s Misery here, with the injured lead at the mercy of a woman whose sanity appears dubious at best and who isn’t afraid to physically abuse her patient if he steps out of line.
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Unfortunately this comparison swiftly ends as in every other regard everything else about this movie is just – bad. Dialogue? Bad. Accents? Bad. Cinematography? Bad. The ending? Bad. Even the promo poster for the film is bad, showing three creatures attacking a man with a shotgun. There is no shotgun in this film, not like that one. Agnes is using what appears to be a classic Winchester rifle or something very similar to it, not a modern looking gun. There aren’t three creatures either. You could perhaps argue that the creature in the initial massacre is different from the one that later attacks Agnes and Billy but there is still only ever one on screen at any time.
The gore effects are nicely done, with plenty of thick gooey blood spraying the scenes, but a bucketful of fake blood simply isn’t enough to make up for everything else. The stew scene is also nicely executed, but then the movie doubles down on it and uses the same set up again and it simply doesn’t work as we can already predict what’s likely to happen.
The first big issue here is the delivery of the lines. Everyone talks with this laconic, heavy American drawl like everyone is from the ‘Deep South’. Even when describing the massacre of a family there is never a single hint of urgency to the dialogue, everything delivered in this overblown and laconic manner that would likely have even John Wayne tapping his foot and asking them to get to the point.
The second is the time period. Again, everyone dresses like they’ve come straight from the set of The Revenant or Dances With Wolves, the guns on display are classic Western guns, yet characters drive cars and use radios to keep in touch with each other. When is this film supposed to be set? If a deliberate attempt was made to make this film timeless, it failed.
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As mentioned above, the acting is a mixed bag varying from ‘just okay’ to ‘really not good’. Agnes chews all the scenery she possibly can and is at least somewhat entertaining while Ruth (Barrington De La Roche) is the direct opposite, barely emoting at any point during the film, every line delivered in the same slow, lazy American drawl as if he was ordering breakfast rather than describing a scene where three people have been skinned alive. Billy is fine. He’s just sort of there, leaving no real lasting impact on the audience.
Winterskin is not a good film. It is not a so-bad-it’s-good film. It’s just bad. Other films from this particular company seem to have been more well received (such as Escape from Cannibal Farm) but this one can be skipped. You won’t be missing anything.