Winter Kills (1979)

Genres - Thriller, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Political Thriller, Paranoid Thriller  |   Release Date - May 11, 1979 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This satirical cult favorite might seem a bit demanding at its outset due to its labyrinthine twists and turns but is well worth sticking with because it lives up to the promise of its darkly funny premise. Like The Manchurian Candidate, Winter Kills mixes horrific conspiracy theorizing with black humor to create a surreal blend of deadpan wit and skin-crawling menace. Such a tone is difficult to maintain, but William Richert manages to pull it off by giving the film a sedate, straight-faced stylishness that allows the plot's outrageous machinations to speak for themselves. Solid technical credits help Richert flesh out this approach, especially Vilmos Zsigmond's stylish lensing and a richly textured but always subtle score from Maurice Jarre. More importantly, the carefully modulated performances of the cast bring the story to life in a vivid fashion: Jeff Bridges maintains a low-key style throughout which keeps the material grounded while John Huston steals every scene he is in as his randy, thoroughly corrupt father, and everyone from Sterling Hayden to Anthony Perkins contributes memorable cameos as a rogue's gallery of suspects. In the end, Winter Kills might be a little too off-kilter and challenging for some viewers, but its intelligence and style make it a must for any fan of cult movies.