(Some Spoilers)We see right away that there's a lot more to the movie "Dead of Winter" then just an out of work actress looking for a part in a new film. A woman alone and driving out in sticks on the New York State Canadian border is attacked from behind in her car and strangled as her left ring finger is for some unknown reason, at that time, amputated by her killer.
Things start to jell later when we see actress Katie McGovern, Mary Steenburgen, going to audition a part for a movie and the theatrical agent Mr. Murray, Roddy McDowell, whom she's auditioning the part for just goes completely overboard with her both looks and acting ability. Getting the part on the spot Murray tells a very happily surprised Katie that she'll have to travel with him upstate to see the movie's director a doctor Lewis, Jan Rubes, whom Murray works for as a manservant. We later find out that Dr. Lewis is also a retired psychiatrist who's treating Murray as a patient.
It becomes quite clear that Katie is somehow being substituted for, what may very well be, the woman we first saw in the film who was brutally murdered. As the truth starts to sink into Katie's head about the real reason for her being picked by both Murray and his "Master" the wheel-chair bound Dr. Lewis. Murray & Dr. Lewis are trying to fool Evelyn the sister of the murdered Julia Rose the woman killed at the start of the movie*****SPOILER*****, both parts Evelyn & Julia also played played by Miss Steenburgen, into thinking that Julia is still alive!
There's also something that has to do with a suite-case filled with hundred dollars bills that we saw Julia take out of a locker and is later taken from her by her unknown murderer but it just disappears and is never seen or heard from again as if it never was there in the first place!
It's when Katie starts to ask too many questions about the part that both Murray and Dr.Lewis have for her in their new movie that she realizes that the part she's to play is that of the murdered Julia Rose! This in an effort to convince her hateful and conniving sister Evelyn that she's still alive.
It's never explained in the movie for what all this maneuvering around on both Murrays and Dr.Lewis' part have anything to do with anything that supposed to be going on in the movie? Did they have something going with Evelyn in murdering Julia or were they trying to fool Evelyn, who seemed to want her sister Julia dead in the first place, into thinking that Julia was alive. Finally what happened to the suite-case loaded with cash Julia had on her and even more who was the person who both murdered Julia and took the money?
The remainder of the movie "Dead of Winter" has Katie running and fighting for her life in an effort to save herself from these three murderous lunatics, Murray Dr. Lewis & Evelyn. The cops in the area, who aren't that interested in doing their job, aren't much help either as the desperate and injured, by having her ring finger chopped off, Katie runs for her life from both Murray & Dr. Lewis.
The ending really saved the movie from being a total disaster by having a "Wait until Dark" like ending in reverse with the crippled would-be psycho-killer Dr. Lewis, stumbling and bobbling all over the place, trying to get his hands on and murdering Katie.
Katie having had no trouble earlier dispatching the infirmed Dr.Lewis' healthy but somewhat brain-damaged manservant Mr. Murray has to fight for her life in holding the far older and much less mobile mad doctor. Even Dr. Lewis getting a knife in his back and stepping on a bear-trap was not enough to slow the old and crazy guy down.
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