Dark of Winter (2012) – By Cary Conley

John French is a hired assassin who is also haunted by his past. A decade ago his teenage daughter was killed and his marriage fell apart shortly thereafter. For the past 10 years, John has been accepting assignments, taking out his rage on his unknowing victims. He’s in the midst of a three-kill contract when his daughter’s best friend Shelly mysteriously shows up on his doorstep. Thus begins a spiral of strange and possibly supernatural events which occur in John’s life. As he tries to solve these occurrences, he also has to try to separate what is real from what is not.

With Dark of Winter, writer/director David C. Snyder has created a strange and spooky cinematic world. The film itself is a technical marvel. Snyder fills the screen with beautiful hues of blue, red, and green, sometimes luridly painting the screen and other times using color for a more mysterious and subdued effect. Though filmed in winter, the landscapes are also quite breathtaking; Snyder uses gorgeous transitions between scenes such as flowing water, clouds passing across the sky, and falling snow that fills the entire screen. The camera roams across these landscapes, following after the characters with a subtly shaky picture and skewed angles. This creates an unsettled atmosphere that increases tension for the viewer. It’s as if some unknown entity is stalking the characters, waiting for the perfect time to pounce. Several scenes are terrifically unique and show off Snyder’s stylish use of the camera: an early scene that shows French shooting a victim in the bathtub has the camera backing out and panning towards the mirror, allowing the audience to view the action in reflection; a second scene has French standing outside and reaching into the window of a closed car door. The camera whirls around in a circular motion only to film the rest of the scene through the window and from inside the car.

Kyle Jason, who stars as John French, does an excellent job creating an edgy, emotionally scarred and still-grieving hit man. As events take a decided turn toward the weird, viewers aren’t sure whether French is being haunted by ghosts or merely his own painful memories. Are these demons real or just a figment of his slowly unraveling mind? The musical score–oftentimes no more than a collection of strange noises playing quietly in the background–is a perfectly creepy addition to the unexplained occurrences happening to John.

Dark of Winter is a terrific independent production. It is subtly spooky, psychologically unsettling, and truly cinematic. This one is well worth tracking down. The film will soon be released to online outlets such as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix. For more information or to view the trailer, go to darkofwintermovie.com.