Set Visit: Wind Chill

[April 2006] Vancouver in the spring time is like Seattle in the dead of winter- wet, cold and absolutely miserable. They might only be a few hours away from each other, but those few hours north make a world of difference. Fittingly, I was there to check out the set of the Screen Gems/ Revolution Studios’ psychological thriller/ horror flick WIND CHILL, described as “the smallest haunted house movie ever made”. So bundle up and get ready for the visit of the ultimate chill ride!

Before we actually get into the visit, here are a few interesting tid bits I learned about WIND CHILL from talking with director Gregory Jacobs, writer Steven Katz and producer Peter Czernin in between takes. Here goes nothing!

  • They filmed on location in the snow covered mountains just north of Vancouver, B.C. (posing as the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania). It was really, really cold, and the cast & crew looked like ‘March of the Penguins’.
  • The story (set in present day) takes place over a 24 hour period, mostly over the course of one night.
  • Mood and overall creepiness of the story was influenced by Japanese horror films.
  • It’s not a violent movie like HOSTEL, but more along the lines of THE GRUDGE. It’s more disturbing than actually gory, and has a slow building, supernatural feel.
  • The car might be haunted, the road might be haunted... you’ll have to wait and see.
  • The over sweeping theme of the film is to not trust your first instincts, as we’re promised lots of twists and turns.
  • It will be rated PG-13, and only required edits in dialog to bring it down from its original R rated script. Mostly the use of the word ‘f*ck’ was taken out and filled in with much less colorful language in order to hit the ‘only one f*ck allowed’ criteria of a PG-13 rating. [NOTE: The recently unveiled poster says the movie will be rated R for 'some violence & disturbing images']
  • The characters names are only ‘guy’ and ‘girl’.
  • For scenes in the car filmed on the set, they actually used a refrigerated car to get accurate appearance of cold breathe.
  • It was conceived as a stand-alone story, no franchise intended.
  • Producer Steven Soderbergh was involved in the early stages of the script, and is interested in making his own ghost story.
  • The crash happens early on when the girl is sleeping- they’re driven off the road by an oncoming snow plow that may or may not ‘really be there’.
  • There’s one main bad ghost, and it has no motive, it’s just ‘pure evil’. It will hunt you down and kill you and there’s nothing you can do about it.


Hoping off the van onto the Vancouver Film Studios lot, we were whisked through the rain and into a massive building labeled ‘Stage A’. From there it was like being transported to a stretch of highway in the middle of the snow covered Pocono Mountains – to call this set impressive would be an understatement. The first thing that hit me was the smell of pine trees, which are lined around the entire set to create that secluded mountain feel. In the middle of the set was a rocky mountain ledge looming over everything, rising about 20 feet high- it looked like they had just taken a part of the mountain and set it in the middle of this huge room.

Next to this mountain was a stretch of road, complete with cement guard rails and a couple of broken down, shit-colored 88’ Oldsmobile's, where the majority of the movie takes place. And the icing on the cake? Snow. Lots and lots and lots of snow! The place was covered with this fake, bio-degradable snow- the road, the trees, the mountain, the car – every inch of the ground was covered in this stuff. They used about 400 2x3 foot boxes of this fake snow to cover the set.

To create the ‘blanketed’ snow look, much of the hillside next to the guard rails was covered with Styrofoam molds to look like a few feet of snow had accumulated (basically a frame with chicken wire covered in Styrofoam). There were signs posted everywhere that read ‘Danger: Do Not Walk on Snow (it wasn’t built for your weight)’, which struck me as amusing, but I was grateful for them, as it looked real enough to walk on.

This part of the set visit was by far my least favorite, as the scene they were shooting involved stars Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes interacting inside the car… and as we were gathered to ‘watch’ the scene 30 feet away, with cameras and such in our view, we couldn’t really see much. We were told that this scene was early on after they took the short cut which ran them off the road and got them stranded. This was the ‘getting to know you’ character development stuff that is necessary in the film, but somewhat boring to actually watch 'behind the scenes'.

The scene started out with Blunt getting into the car and slamming the door shut, then all I heard was a bunch of muffled talking that I couldn’t really make out. A few minutes of quietly talking, they began raising voices with each other, like an argument. About what? Who knows, but it seemed to me they were frustrated with the situation, and were taking it out on each other- doing the blame game thing. She's pissed at him, and he’s defending himself. Each ‘take’ of the scene took about 5-10 minutes to film, which impressed me somehow, but I couldn’t tell if it was one long take, or a few bits of dialog done over and over and over again.

The technical stuff here is also of mention (as that was mostly what I was able to observe). Once camera’s started rolling, there were a few dudes throwing tufts of snow in front of a high powered fan, which was aimed into air – creating that lightly snowing feel in the background. Watching these guys work, it was apparent that not just any schmoe could do this – there’s a fine technique that’s hard to do in making it look like it’s actually snowing.

There were two models of the same 88’ Oldsmobile on set, used for different aspects of filming. One had its entire back end ripped off, so the camera could sit in the car with the two actors. The other was used for more exterior shots- all in all, they used about 4 different models of the same car for different scenes and uses. The interior of the car was very detailed, equipped with those crappy beaded cushions and even a hackey sack chillin’ on the dashboard. Looked exactly like the same crappy junkers my buddies drove around in high school. As the majority of the movie takes place in the car, it makes sense it was so detailed- nice!


That about sums it up for this set visit- the set was impressive in its own right, and while we couldn't see much of the scenes being filmed, it was still a great experience. I'd like to thank writer Steven Katz for hanging out with us, and answering all of our questions (except those that gave too much of the story away!), as well as the entire cast and crew who did a great job making us feel welcome while we were there.

So what's next? Stick around to check out our roundtable interviews with director Gregory Jacobs, and stars Emily Blunt (who's frickin' smokin' hot) and Ashton Holmes. Until then, bundle up, stay warm and prepare for the WIND CHILL!! (April 27th)



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