We all love the magical feeling in the air when the holidays approach: The twinkling lights; that pine needle smell; hot cocoa on the stove; a chance to ice skate (if you're lucky enough to live near an ice rink). But the Winter Solstice, opens a new window is coming up this Thursday, which means we'll have the fewest daylight hours to enjoy this blissful winter outdoors. This gives us the perfect excuse to enjoy a cozy movie night in, which is always my indoor activity of choice. You may find yourself scrolling through endless holiday movie selections filled with accidental Santas, humiliating pink bunny suits, or a Christmas that needs to be saved from the brink of cancellation through the power of one child who just needs to…BELIEVE. Oh, and Tim Allen.
But not me. Call me bleak. When the sleigh bells ring, I'm not always listening.
These shorter days and longer nights make me want to cuddle up in front of the warming glow of my TV and watch... The Shining (1980), opens a new window. Or Män som hatar kvinnor, opens a new window (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009, original Swedish version). Or Let the right one in (2008), opens a new window. For me, horror and psychological thrillers are what fill me with comfort and entertainment on these darkest nights of the year. All set in desolate regions buried in snow, it's their settings and bleak moods that allow me to overlook the terror and violence depicted within them to enjoy the finely crafty storyline they lend themselves to.
Let the Right One In (2008) is probably the lesser known of these films so allow me to convince you to give it a chance. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, you might recognize it as the original Swedish film that was remade into an American version called Let Me in (2010) (Please don't watch this subpar version.). Released around the same time as Twilight (2008), you can technically describe the plot as a bullied young boy befriending a mysterious new girl next door who happens to be a vampire. Naturally, you might draw comparisons between the two, but this is far from the romanticized teenage diary of the Twilight saga. The bond between Eli and Oskar is set in childhood innocence and based on finding companionship as well as protection with a fellow outsider. They find solace in each other after one struggles to keep friends while the other is forced to never have any. Beyond the bloody victims and body count, there is actual sweetness in this story.
So if you need a break from cheery miracles, I suggest trying movies with a snowy, dreary mise-en-scène, opens a new window. It’s a perfect way to celebrate the Winter Solstice because the atmosphere outside will set the mood well for what you're about to enjoy in your living room. After all, it’s just one night. And after Thursday, we will all be able to look forward to more days that are merry and bright.
The complete Lady Snowblood, opens a new window (1973)
Directed by Toshiya Fujita. Starring Meiko Kaji. Not rated.
The Witch, opens a new window (2016)
Directed by Robert Eggers. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson. Rated R.
Titles Available on LINK+
A Midnight Clear, opens a new window (1992)
Directed by Keith Gordon. Starring Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Arye Gross, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, and Frank Whaley. Rated R. This one is actually set around Christmas time, but the story is not your traditional heartwarming Christmas tale.
The Thing, opens a new window (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Kurt Russell. Rated R.
The Changeling, opens a new window (1980)
Directed by Peter Madek. Starring George C. Scott. Rated R.
What non-Christmas, "cold films" do you plan to watch or recommend this winter?