An independently made horror flick shot on location in Louisiana, this one almost works, but the combination of an episodic structure and a lifeless second act turn what should have been an enjoyable diversion into an endurance test. The plot hook is straightforward—a group of college kids travel to a remote cabin during the chilly off-season, then try to spook each other by telling scary stories, which the filmmakers re-create as vignettes. Eventually, the students become uneasy because they suspect the supernatural violence in their stories not only really happened in locations close to where they’re staying. It would have taken a truly deft fantasist, on the order of Richard Matheson, to pull the stories together while also balancing shocks with suspense. Alas, writer Richard H. Wadsack and director James L. Wilson lack inspiration and style. Some vignettes are downright pedestrian, like the one about a woman who kills a would-be rapist or the one about a couple terrorized by what might or might not be a demented little person. Worse, the picture’s cast comprises unknown performers of negligible charisma and skill. Yet the real disappointment of Screams of a Winter Night is that, toward the end of the movie’s running time, Wadsack and Wilson up their game. The final sequence, beginning from when the students make disturbing noises to freak out a friend and continuing through the hellzapoppin climax, has real zing, with sound effects and Don Zimmer’s score forming a spooky cacophony. Too little, too late. That said, it’s easy to imagine that this picture occasionally digs its claws into viewers who encounter Screams of a Winter Night in the right circumstances—late in the evening, with sleep held at bay by onscreen eeriness.
Screams of a Winter Night: LAME