It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Dead of Winter" is one of those movies where you shout advice at the screen. The plot involves a young woman in mortal danger, and you can see how she can save herself, even if she can't.
It's easy to pick holes in movies like this, to find the inconsistencies and the oversights and say the movie's no good because we're smarter than it is. But maybe that's exactly the point. Maybe the actual pleasure comes from the fun of being frustrated and full of free advice while the character marches to her doom.
The movie stars Mary Steenburgen as an out-of-work actress who is pleased to pass an audition and be summoned to an isolated country mansion for a screen test. She arrives in the middle of a howling blizzard to meet her host, a meticulously polite old gentleman in a wheelchair, and his assistant, an obsequious but sinister Roddy McDowall.
What we know, and she doesn't, is that the two men need her because she's an exact double for a kidnap victim they've killed. They tell her she's needed as the double for an actress in a movie they're making, and she unknowingly studies the appearance and voice patterns of the dead woman until she's good enough to read a script into a videotape camera. Then, of course, the plan is to kill her.