Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Dead of Winter


Mary Steenburgen is a struggling actress. She also plays bad twin sisters. The actress is hired to impersonate one of the sisters, thinking she is auditioning for a role in a movie where the star died. But the real goal of the tape she makes is hidden from her. She is trapped in an old house in the dead of winter, with no way to get out, and increasingly certain that they intend to kill her.

The bad, crazy guys are good old Roddy McDowall and Jan Rubeš, an old man in a powered wheelchair. The tension ramps up nicely, and then it sort of peters out. She is smart, thinks fast, improvises, and dispatches Roddy easily enough. You’d think she wouldn’t have much trouble with the old cripple, but you’d be wrong, and that’s where it gets silly. He is able to struggle up out of his wheelchair, laboriously climb a flight of stairs and a ladder into the attic, where he stumbles after her. Mary has shown too much spunk up to this point to behave as she does now. There were literally dozens of opportunities to brain the old fuck, who is armed only with a fireplace poker, with any of a dozen weapons near at hand—like, how about when he sticks his old bald head up out of the opening to the attic?—but she attempts to avoid him.

When she finally kills him (oh, you don’t really think a spoiler warning was needed there, do you?), she is transfixed with horror. Now, I certainly can’t speak from experience. I’ve never killed anyone who was relentlessly stalking me. Never killed anyone at all, for that matter. But I just somehow feel that anyone, man or woman, would feel a measure of triumph at a moment like that, a perhaps fleeting but very strong impulse to stand over the asshole and spit in his face, grin at him, and watch him die. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman do that in all the many woman-in-peril movies I’ve ever seen. I wish some director some time would give that last scene a try. I have a feeling audiences might like that.