Any time a group of teenagers go into the woods to party, you know something is about to go down. Since the dawn of time, that’s been a horror movie trope...
...Director/writer Dionne Copeland presents Cold Wind Blowing, having recently played at the Women in Horror Film Festival, the story of a group vacation gone awry: when seven young adults go to a cabin in the woods to celebrate Christmas, not only does the relationship between Nomi (Angela Way) and her brother Thomas (Cameron Petersen) grow more fraught with family tension, but Nomi’s best friend Casey (M.J. Kehler) betrays her trust and sleeps with the boy she likes (Alexander Lowe). As if the interpersonal drama were not enough of a draw, a supernatural monster (Larry Fessenden) begins to hunt them, and they are forced to band together to try to survive.
Cold Wind Blowing doesn’t apologize for the use of its tropes. I mean, hell, clichés are clichés because they’re true, right?
Here we have our staple characters:
The brother and sister with a troubled family history. We hear only a little of Nomi and Thomas’ family drama, but it’s enough to give a backstory without diving way off the narrative to explore it. Plus, it’s their disagreement that sends Thomas off into the woods on a tantrum that functions as the inciting incident. Both actors’ performances are believable, and they’re doing all they can be expected to do with a fairly flat-dialogued script.
Up next, we have the jock who is after the sister. Nomi rebuffs him after he has a “fresh box of condoms,” and the viewer is meant to intuit that really that’s all he cares about. His character is mostly unfeeling, static, and the flat line delivery illustrates this.
Of course, we have the slutty friend who is after the jock. Casey is obviously a terrible friend, but Kehler’s acting is pretty solid. Again, some real unimaginative lines here, but hey, teenagers sometimes talk like that. This character, too, is the most dynamic of them—she clearly has some stuff to work through, and people can’t change TOO much over the course of the weekend, but she realizes her shitty behavior and does try to make amends.
As is reminiscent of what I call the Scooby Doo formula, we next have our somewhat oblivious stoner. He’s only somewhat oblivious, though, and Griffin Cork also delivers a really compelling performance, accidentally leaving his radio plugged into the car and draining the battery, and beating himself up for it, then defending himself half-heartedly. It’s really solid.
There’s the doting girlfriend of the brother. There’s not much else to say about her.
Then there’s the Wolf (Fessenden). I didn’t know it was a wolf until I looked up the credits afterward, but it was definitely creepy, what with its skull half-lit in the flashlight and the chickenskin hands clawing all over its potential victims. We don’t get its motivation apparently, but hell, it’s a monster. That’s pretty much motivation enough, right?
It’s unlikely that any of those tropes strikes a unique chord in the viewer, but that’s okay. The setting, too, is familiar, as is the trope of the monster circling the cabin trying to pick off the partiers one by one. None of that is trying to be novel, and that’s okay.
What IS cool is the setting and the way the film is shot. The mis en scene is super realistic and fun, as are the moments when people get caught making out who shouldn’t be. Plus, the Christmas lights and the piled-up snow create a really beautiful on-screen atmosphere. The cinematography is original and interesting but not distracting from the plot or performances. The semi-found-footage style of follow-shots of the attacks are just disorienting enough to be spooky without nauseating the viewer, and when the camera needs to be still, it is. Turner Stewart’s cinematography is the truly unsung hero of this film.
Basically, this movie is the horror movie for the horror movie fanatic. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, but it’s also fun. This type of movie is the one you WANT to watch with friends, the one where you WANT to hear someone scream in the theater and then giggle about it afterward. Essentially, Cold Wind Blowing is the classic drive-in horror film, reupped.
By Mary Kay McBrayer
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