This review was written for the theatrical release of "Wind Chill."
It's easy to see why this horror effort is not receiving a wider release despite numbering George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh among its executive producers. There is relatively little gore, brutality or degradation, hence it apparently has little appeal to younger audiences now accustomed to a steady supply of torture porn.
That's a shame, because "Wind Chill," for all its flaws, is an often spooky and imaginative ghost story that contains a genuine creepiness. As with most horror films these days, it was released without being screened for the press.
The red-hot Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada") and Ashton Holmes play, in what is practically a two-character movie, a pair of unnamed college students driving home on a particularly wintry night at the beginning of the Christmas holidays. They make the unfortunate mistake (one that should be avoided by horror film protagonists at all costs, as also evidenced by the recent "Vacancy") of leaving the highway in pursuit of, as the guy puts it, a "scenic detour."
Crashing with a another vehicle that unaccountably comes straight toward them, the pair find themselves stranded and alone in the middle of a freezing night, their only company being a procession of mysterious, dark-hooded strangers and a highway patrolman (Martin Donovan) who is not only more menacing than helpful but who may or may not even be real.
To give away more would spoil the surprises of the film, which plays like an extended version of the sort of creepy ghost tales spun around a late-night campfire. Joe Gangemi and Steven Katz's screenplay well conveys the evolving relationship between the initially haughty girl and the young man who is not quite as innocent as he first seems, and while the eerie events and revelations that ensue aren't exactly original, they well satisfy the genre's conventions.
Director Gregory Jacobs does an excellent job of delivering suitably creepy atmospherics, and the young stars (Blunt using an effective American accent) suffer their repeated scares in appealing fashion.
Sony Pictures Entertainment
A TriStar Pictures presentation of a Blueprint Pictures/Section Eight production
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Screenwriters: Joe Gangemi, Steven Katz
Producers: Peter Czernin, Graham Broadbent
Executive producers: George Clooney, Ben Cosgrove, Steven Soderbergh
Director of photography: Dan Laustsen
Production designer: Howard Cummings
Music: Clint Mansell
Co-producer: Peter Lhotka
Costume designer: Trish Keating
Editor: Lee Percy
Girl: Emily Blunt
Guy: Ashton Holmes: Highway Patrolman: Martin Donovan
Running time -- 91 minutes
MPAA rating: R