Dead of Winter,
a.k.a. Lost Signal,
directed by Brian McNamara
(Lionsgate, 2007)

Dead of Winter (a.k.a. Lost Signal) has all the makings of a good, intense movie -- but it never truly delivers. Throwing a big surprise in at the last moment doesn't help. You can't make up for a weak story by delivering a surprise questionable ending -- when is Hollywood going to figure that out? I know this film is supposedly based on a true story, but I've read about that true story; Dead of Winter may be built upon the same structure of that event, but this is really just an attempt to exploit a tragedy in a failed effort to add a little extra tension to a film that struggles to stand on its own two legs. I don't want to speak too harshly of the film, though, because I have to admit it did a good job of keeping me entertained.

If these two young people had only had their drinks unknowingly laced with LSD, I would really have cared what happened to them after they found themselves lost in the cold, snowy woods. The fact that they also both willingly snorted crystal meth at their friend's New Year's party, though, kept me from establishing a true bond with them and their plight. I didn't want anything bad to happen to the cute girl, Tiffany (Sandra McCoy), but I have to admit I didn't like Kevin (Al Santos) at all. When you think some awful something is attacking you, you don't just run off and leave your girl behind -- unless you're Kevin, who did it repeatedly.

So Kevin and Tiffany leave this party in something of a huff and head home on the snowy roads. Hearing and seeing frightening things, they abandon the car and run off into the woods in a panic. Afraid to head back to the car, they decide to trek the rest of the way home through the woods. Naturally, they get lost. They do call 911, but the signal never lasts very long, and the dispatcher has a hard time figuring out where they are because of the crazy things they say -- they're lost at their apartment, there are a bunch of "workers" there who don't speak English, etc. Things go from bad to worst out in the woods as Kevin's behavior becomes stranger and stranger.

In light of the ending, I feel that some of the overall story elements are rather flimsily connected to one another, and a number of obvious yet unanswered questions arise as to the whole situation this couple found themselves in. The film does muster up a couple of creepy moments, one of which features a beautifully subtle and perfectly executed shot that you may not notice if you aren't paying attention at the time, but the story just isn't strong enough to carry this film all the way through. The end result is an average horror/thriller that will entertain you but probably won't exceed your expectations.

review by
Daniel Jolley

19 March 2011

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