There is something about the isolation that can come with winter: the coldness keeping us indoors makes us turn to our screens, filling the days with sensational winter-themed movies to combat the cold outside. This is often when horror fans watch more movies than any other season. This is particularly true of Christmas-themed horror films, of which there are many more to choose from over Halloween-themed entries. Still, taking the holiday theme out of the equation and just focusing on the emptiness winter can bring has resulted in some frightening and entertaining horror films worthy of checking out.
These twenty films may not keep you warm, but if you grab a nice cup of hot chocolate and curl up with a partner or pet, they will keep you entertained as you wait for warmer days to come. We have chosen a wide range of horror, from the frightening to the comedic, to ensure you have plenty to keep you occupied, regardless of what kind of winter terrors you seek.
23 Extinction (2015)
2015’s Extinction takes place years into a zombie apocalypse, survivors have relocated to icy regions of North America, places where the pervasive chill freezes the undead solid — or so they hope. The story centers on two survivors and a young girl; and while the adults maintain an extremely strained relationship, the youngster’s innocence and their shared desire to keep her safe turns them into a de facto family.
A More Emotional Zombie Film
Horror fans who like a hefty dose of drama in their zombie content (like Maggie or The Walking Dead, for example) will definitely enjoy Extinction. It’s an emotional survival story, but it still has its scary moments; not only is the climate frigid, the undead revenants that lurk in the periphery will freeze your blood.
22 30 Days of Night (2007)
Any film that takes place in Alaska is bound to include an Arctic blast of bone-chilling weather, but 30 Days of Night is extreme. Not only does it take place in a remote village, it unfolds during the coldest part of winter when the locale experiences a full month without ever seeing the sun. Too bad it never occurred to the hamlet’s residents that the conditions are like Club Med for vampires. When a bloodsucking clan descends, the survivors make a desperate bid to outlast and outsmart their attackers, hoping the sun will rise on them again.
Great Vampires Stand Out in 30 Days of Night
The vamps in director David Slade’s film are exceptionally chilling — animalistic and feral, yet ruled by a master with the intimidating poise of a ruthless Russian mobster. Their inclusion in the snowy Alaskan town just makes them that more unique. Excellent pacing, a talented cast, and a crackling script with have you holding your breath until the film’s icy conclusion (which is both triumphant and heart-wrenching).
21 Frozen (2010)
Three friends get stuck on a ski lift when a resort closes early for a long weekend. That’s it. There aren’t any ghosts, cryptids, or a hulking psychopath with mommy issues involved, and no flashbacks to action-packed or horrifying sequences that took place prior to the events of the film. But the simple premise of Frozen speaks to the Melville-like indifference of nature just as well as your average Werner Herzog film.
Frozen in One Place but Relentlessly Intense
Don’t think for a moment that Frozen is boring; our protagonists transition from stunned disbelief to frenzied desperation, risking both bodily injury and the appetites of hungry wolves gathered below them in a frantic bid for survival. The slow-burn intensity of Frozen won’t be enough to penetrate the film’s blisteringly frigid atmosphere. There are a few scenes that will make even seasoned horror fans cringe.
20 Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
Margot, an aspiring journalist, heads to a small Amish community with her friends to create a documentary about her mother and extended family. However, the deeper the group digs into the history and customs of the secluded sect, the more they learn the dark truth and the real reason Margot’s mother fled.
Snowy Jump Scares Make This a Worthy Entry in the Franchise
If all you are looking for during the winter months with some jump scares to help keep your body warm and moving, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is an ideal choice. Utilizing the found footage format to create a steady uneasiness, the entry into the popular franchise goes larger than its previous entries and benefits from the larger-scale exploration of cults and ancient evils. This is more of a popcorn flick, but for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in horror, the film consistently creates a sense of mystery and dread that escalates perfectly to a frantic and shocking conclusion. Stream on Paramount+
19 Tex Montana Will Survive!
A popular survival show host exposed as a fraud, Tex Montana takes to the barren and white wilderness to prove he is a skilled survivalist. However, Tex’s lies start to catch up to him when he realizes that he has no clue what he is doing, causing a frantic attempt to escape and escape freezing to death.
Tex Montana Injects Some Morbid Humor Into Winter Horror
More of a comedy than a horror, the survival elements, including desperation and fear taking over Tex, and the grim approach to humor will still impress horror comedy fans. Written by and starring Jeremy Gardner, Tex Montana Must Survive! utilizes found footage/faux documentary style, ensuring the audience is always in the front row of Tex’s decline. This works wonders under the obnoxious persona Gardner crafts, and the slow downfall and mistakes of Tex will have audiences celebrate his downfall. While it may seem cruel to cheer for the death of a character, this is another sentiment the movie nails that will appeal to the horror crowd. The film’s creators have generously released it onto the Creative Commons for anyone to watch; you can watch it for free below:
18 Wind Chill
- Release Date
- April 27, 2007
While Frozen (described above) is about as straightforward as a narrative can get, Wind Chill‘s simple premise is deceptive, as the film takes a number of unexpected turns. While being stranded in a car on an isolated road during a white-out sounds like a real-life nightmare, Wind Chill has us second guessing everything, from the true intentions of the vehicle’s driver to the would-be rescuers who approach (and disappear back into the darkness).
A Young Emily Blunt Leads Wind Chill
Wind Chill is ripe for rediscovery as it stars a then-comparatively unknown Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) as a college student whose ride home for the holidays descends into a chilling oblivion. She displays the intensity and intelligence she’s known for even here, and remains an underrated scream queen. In the age of apps like Lyft and Uber, Wind Chill will remind some of us how often we tempted fate in the early days of ridesharing (which was essentially a socially-acceptable way of accepting rides from strangers).
A 1992 horror oddity that combines stop-motion claymation kills with absurd characters centers around those who come across a small lodge deep in the woods. An ancient ritual sets a curse upon the lodge, and anyone visiting it soon finds themselves the target of the titular ‘winter beast.’
Winterbeast Is Bonkers, Silly Fun
Winterbeast is a bit of a slow-burn in that much of the opening film is semi-drama driven by rather uninspired characters. Its limited budget further hinders this, giving a rough edge to the uninspired story-building. However, and this is a big however, once the chaos starts to kick into gear, Christopher Thies’ Winterbeast becomes one wild and entertaining trip. The claymation, while crude, is still an impressive execution of the craft in eliciting violent limb-ripping action. In addition, the movie takes a peculiar turn at the end that needs to be seen to be believed.
It’s a wonderfully absurd gem you should check out. A Rifftrax version is available (and you can check out the trailer for that below), though the movie is actually more than enjoyable without the riffing from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni. Stream on AMC+
After moving to a new town, a young girl named Haruka Nozaki finds herself the target of extreme bullying. This escalates to a point that affects her family in a disturbing way. Unable to deal with the trauma and the lack of support from teachers to stop the harassment, Haruka plans a bloody and vicious revenge.
Children Spray Each Other’s Blood Across White Snow
While not technically horror, there is enough bloodshed and graphic violence in Eisuke Naito’s Liverleaf to make the most hardened gorehound flinch. Add in the fact that the majority of the bloody confrontations happen between children, and there is an undeniably unsettling element to the production that will further land it favorably with horror fans. However, it is not all about the violence, as the performances, direction, and cinematography are all top-notch in this Japanese shocker. Taking place during the winter months, there are plentiful images of blood soaking the snow, a stark color contrast that is always wonderfully dreadful to behold. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult film to find.
15 The Last Winter
The Last Winter has a surprisingly great cast for a low-budget indie film — Ron Perlman, Connie Britton, Zach Gilford, Kevin Corrigan, and others star in this quiet, mysterious little genre picture from the great director Larry Fessenden. The movie follows the development of an ice road through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for an oil company, and a combination of environmental scientists and corporate oil workers who investigate the area and discover some strange, disturbing happenings.
Larry Fessenden Is an Indie Horror God
The Last Winter is a more coldly subdued horror film, less of a slow-burn than a slow-freeze. It’s all about atmosphere here until the end, and filmmaker Larry Fessenden is an expert at that. The director behind masterpieces like Habit and Wendigo creates another horror allegory here, a look at environmental doom that is subtle enough to just slightly shade the increasingly intense and hopeless events of the film. It’s a dark, mysterious classic of winter horror.
14 The Chill Factor (Demon Possessed)
In Chill Factor (also known as Demon Possessed), a group of snowmobilers finds themselves stranded during a fierce winter storm with an injured friend, forced to take refuge in an abandoned lodge. As they go through the building, they learn of its cult-like background and the attempt of its followers to summon a demon. Plagued by visions of horror, the gang discover that they’re being stalked by an evil force that looks to pick them out one by one.
What Makes it Great
While there are a lot of phenomenal holiday-themed slashers like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas, there is a shortage of winter-themed killers without holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving looming over them. The Chill Factor fits that niche nicely, and despite the supernatural element, it plays out much more like a traditional slasher in tone. This also includes a snowmobile chase ending in a pretty satisfactory conclusion. It may not be the height of ’90s horror, but it is a tasty indulgence for winter-themed terror. Stream on Tubi
13 Dead Snow
- Release Date
- January 9, 2009
- Vegar Hoel , Stig Frode Henriksen , Charlotte Frogner , Lasse Valdal , Evy Kasseth Røsten , Jeppe Laursen
Sort of Evil Dead but Swedish, Dead Snow sees the typical setup of a group of young folk traveling to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and then being attacked by all manner of horrible things. What is it this time? Nazi zombies. Blood hits the snow so wonderfully here in this clash of red on white, with chainsaws, fantastic practical effects, and a twisted sense of humor.
Dead Snow Benefits from a Director with a Great Sense of Humor
Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola is one of the best horror-comedy filmmakers today. He’s proven this in the wonderfully executed original film, the surprisingly great sequel Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, and even more snowy bloodshed in the more recent film Violent Night, which saw Santa fight burglars. Honestly, he probably has more skill at directing gore in the snow than any other director at this point.
Set in 1840s California during the Mexican–American War, Ravenous follows disgraced Second Lieutenant John Boyd, who, after being reprimanded, is set to a remote outpost. The outpost, overseen by an eccentric skeleton crew of soldiers and civilians, soon starts to unravel when consumed dead bodies are discovered.
An Underrated Man-Eating Masterpiece of Madness
Ravenous is one of the most underrated horror films of the 90s, with a strong cast centered around actors Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. The way the film builds suspense as the cannibal plot unfolds is wonderfully gripping and a fascinating mix of mysticism and madness. Add in the remoteness of the winter landscape, and the outpost slowly succumbing to the horrors of cannibalism is the perfect inescapable horror for a day when the cold has you stuck inside. Stream on the Criterion Channel. Atun-Shei Films produced an excellent little video essay on the film, titled “Why Ravenous Is the Greatest Movie Ever Made,” which you can watch below:
Rent or buy on digital platforms like YouTube, Google Play, Prime Video, Apple TV, and others.
Loosely based on the true story of a French dance troupe in the 1990s who had their alcoholic beverage spiked with LSD at an after-party, Climax follows the decline of a group of young actors as their minds break down. Jumping between characters, the movie shows the chaotic breakdown of civility and decency into a bloody and sexually driven night of depravity and violence.
Climax Studies the Murderous Insanity of Drugged-Up Isolation in Winter
Given the amount of dancing, sexually charged dialogue, and psychedelic nightmare fuel, one might overlook or forget that Gaspar Noé’s Climax takes place in the dead of winter. However, the isolation surrounding the long-drawn-out party, where every member is doused with copious amounts of LSD, is framed wonderfully by the unforgiving cold winter that keeps them trapped in the building with only their broken minds to keep them company. Those unfamiliar with Gaspar Noé may want to research beforehand as his work thrives on controversial content. Essentially, his films are not ones you casually jump into, but for hardened horror fans and those who can vibe with extreme and challenging cinema, Climax will be a welcome find. Stream on Cinemax through Prime Video and Hulu, or rent or buy on digital platforms like Vudu and Apple TV.
10 Monsters Club
Choosing to abandon modern civilization to live an isolated life, Ryoichi spends his days reflecting on the past, reading poetry, and sending bombs in the mail to CEOs. Things change when Ryoichi one day spots an odd creature in the forest, which triggers family visits and hallucinations, challenging the outcast’s perception of reality and the meaning behind his lashing out against society.
A Lonely Winter Horror Updates Ted Kaczynski for Japan
Taking inspiration from the story of Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, Monsters Club captures the feeling of winter isolation unlike any other film on this list. Directed by Toshika Toyoda, a master of exploring the inherent suffering of the human condition, the movie does not so much re-write the Unabomber story; instead, it looks at how society and past trauma can create withdrawn, spiteful people. The ‘monster’ that stalks Royochi is also brilliantly executed by Japanese outsider fashion industry icon Pyûpiru, adding artistic flair to a masterfully crafted tale of horror, tragedy, and isolation. The film is sadly very difficult to find.
9 The Brood
- Release Date
- May 25, 1979
- Art Hindle , Oliver Reed , Samantha Eggar , Susan Hogan
- 92 min
Trusting his wife in the caring hands of a renowned physiatrist practicing a new form of therapy, Frank soon begins to question the methods when his daughter returns from a visit covered in bruises. However, as he makes the moves to get his wife out of therapy or get sole custody of his daughter, mysterious killings start to arise all around him. The results are aptly chilling under the skilled direction of David Cronenberg. In particular, the abominations that appear as small kids in parkas become one of the most terrifying winter-themed creatures ever to grace the screen.
David Cronenberg Directs His Divorce
The Brood is one of the more underrated films by David Cronenberg, as on the surface, it is a pretty straightforward horror film and less experimental or stylistic than the director’s other projects. However, the film utilizes the pseudo-psychology of a bygone era, blending primal scream with inner child therapy as a means to withdraw a deadly creature from within in a clever way. It is an oddly abstract idea and unique approach to body horror, and was what Cronenberg called his most personal film, his Kramer vs. Kramer, as the film reflects his real-life divorce from Margaret Hindson. Steam on Max or rent and buy on other digital platforms.
A couple visits a rural farmhouse owned by one of their parents for the Christmas holiday. However, the mother is struggling with dark visions and a deep depression that puts her at odds with her son’s new partner. In addition, a traditional samurai armor set inherited by the family is starting to manifest itself and invade both dreams and the real world, cutting down the neighbors with its katana.
An Obscure Oddity Gets Remastered
A low-budget, psychedelic, erotic horror film featuring a deadly samurai! What more could you want? Did you not ask for entertainment? Putting the peculiar yet exciting blend of genres aside, Bloodbeat is a curioso that borders on being a Christmas movie, with production set around the festive holiday. However, the big draw comes from the beautiful absurdity of it all, including a few psychic battles and classical slasher elements. The film is also a bit of an unearthed gem, with horror/exploitation company Vinegar Syndrome giving it a second life in 2017 with a remaster to let the effects shine. If you want to make your winter watching a bit stranger, Bloodbeat is an easy choice. Watch for free on Tubi, Plex, or The Roku Channel.
7 The White Buffalo
Plagued by visions of a great white buffalo, Wild Bill Hickok (Charles Bronson) decides to head West in search of the beast. Along the way, he meets the great Lakota warrior Crazy Horse (Will Sampson), who is also hunting the beast to avenge the death of his daughter at the hands of the gigantic creature. The two team up to take down the large buffalo, facing off against it in an unforgiving winter landscape.
What Makes it Great
Having iconic actor Charles Bronson team up with pioneering Indigenous actor Will Sampson is reason enough to check out The White Buffalo. The two play off each other brilliantly and are among the best pairings you will find on screen. This does make up for the notable shortcoming of the production, with the majority of it existing as a kind of plodding drama. However, the eventual appearance and showdown against the giant White Buffalo will scratch that itch for giant creature mayhem during the winter months. Watch for free on YouTube and Tubi, and rent or buy on digital platforms.
6 Devil’s Pass
- Release Date
- February 27, 2013
- gemma atkinson , Richard Reid , Matt Stokoe , Holly Goss , Luke Albright , Anastasiya Burdina
The Dyatlov Pass is sometimes called Russia’s Area 51, a remote region in the Ural Mountains where locals have reported everything from UFOs and cryptids to clandestine government experiments. The Dyatlov Pass incident refers to the mysterious deaths of nine hikers back in 1959, which is explored in this film. Devil’s Pass is an excellent mockumentary and found-footage horror spooker that sees a group of ambitious American grad students on a quest to explain the enduring mysteries of the Dyatlov Pass.
To its credit, the film includes some of the more grounded theories regarding the actual fates of the hikers in 1959 (like an avalanche, and exposure), but doesn’t shy away from the truly fantastic, with some absolutely horrifying creatures and concepts involved. With both effects and production far superior to your standard found footage affair, Devil’s Pass will hook you fast and keep you squirming until its mind-boggling conclusion. Watch for free on YouTube and Tubi and stream on AMC+, Prime Video, and other digital platform.
5 The Snow Woman (1968)
A master sculptor and his apprentice become trapped in a winter storm and take refuge in a small shack. There, they meet a snow-white spirit who steals the life of the older sculptor. The apprentice is spared under the pretext that he must never reveal what had transpired that night. Years later, with the event behind him, the man meets a beautiful young woman, and the two fall deeply in love. But as they draw closer, there is an obvious secret the woman keeps tied to the event in the small, remote cabin.
A Classic Japanese Folk Tale Is Rendered Beautifully
Anyone who has gone through their share of anime or manga will know the story of the ‘Snow Woman’ (Yuki Onna). It is, arguably, one of the most significant pieces of folklore to come out of the country. Her story has been told many times in film, but we will focus on the most beautifully macabre rendition in Tokuzô Tanaka’s 1968 movie, The Snow Woman. The production has a picturesque ’60s aesthetic, with bright colors that turn the Japanese winter landscape into equal parts scenic and terrifying. This contrast is also wonderfully reflected in the performance of Shiho Fujimura, who can strike awe or fear with her depiction of Yuki Onna.
This story was also featured in the essential anthology for fans of Japanese cinema, Kwaidan. Though we went with Snow Woman as it stays consistent in the winter theme, Kwaidan can be more easily found for rent on Apple TV or streamed on Max.
- Release Date
- June 7, 1984
- Hoyt Axton , John Louie , Keye Luke , Don Steele , Susan Burgess , Scott Brady
As Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” roars out in the film’s opener to reveal the town of Kingston Falls (the same set as Back to The Future, no less), so begins Gremlins and a perfect Christmas / Not Christmas film. Being gifted a creature called a mogwai, Billy doesn’t listen to the rules that come with it and all hell breaks loose in the town as Gremlins run amok. The movie is peak ’80s horror/comedy with fantastic puppetry and a sinister sense of humor.
Director Joe Dante is one of the smartest horror filmmakers, and made Gremlins as a subtle commentary on the consumption and materialism of Christmas, showcasing the increasingly unethical or toxic purchases that have defined the holiday, rather than religious or filial symbolism. The anti-corporate sentiment is exaggerated further in the hilarious, infamous sequel from Dante, which is an all-out attack on Hollywood and capitalism. Watch on Max and Prime Video and rent on YouTube and Vudu and other digital platforms.