The best arctic horror stories to watch after True Detective: Night Country

A blood drenched vampire leers with fanged teeth in 30 Days of Night
Image: Columbia Pictures

Movies and TV stories sure to make your blood run cold

We’re currently in the midst of the winter season, when the temperatures drop and the night grows darker and longer, clawing away more and more precious minutes of sunlight. It’s the perfect time of the year for True Detective: Night Country, the fourth season of the crime drama anthology starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. This season has already done a lot to differentiate itself from past storylines, with nods to the supernatural interspersed with prominent callbacks to the series’ first season.

As we inch ever closer to the season’s finale, you may be wondering: What should I watch after True Detective: Night Country? We’ve been thinking the same thing, which is why we’ve put together a list of the best arctic-themed horror movies and TV to watch after the story of Tsalal has concluded. From eldritch horror and psychological thrillers to nail-biting survival dramas and more, here are the best arctic horror stories to watch after True Detective: Night Country.

30 Days of Night

Danny Huston as the vampire Marlow in 30 Days of Night. Image: Columbia Pictures

Director: David Slade
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston
Where to watch: Netflix

True Detective: Night Country takes place in Ennis, Alaska, a town which is experiencing an annual period of extended darkness known as “the Long Night” during the events of the series. 30 Days of Night features the same concept, as it is also set in an Alaskan town preparing for a month-long polar night for which the film takes its name.

David Slade’s action horror thriller has something that Night Country doesn’t though: Vampires. Lots of ‘em. Adapted from writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith’s comic book miniseries, 30 Days of Night is a brutal and terrifying cat-and-mouse game, with the surviving human citizens of Barrow attempting desperately to wait out an invading horde of vampires long enough until the polar night ends and the sun rises. It’s a chilling, remarkable horror thriller with suspenseful action and enough blisteringly gorey violence to make your hair on stand on end and set your blood pumping. —Toussaint Egan

Devil’s Pass

A ghoulish creature howls while holding a man up by his face. Image; Aldamisa Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright
Where to watch: Tubi, AMC Plus, Shudder

The Dyatlov Pass is one of the most enduring and strange mysteries of the modern world. A group of nine hikers in the Ural mountains died naked and covered in snow with some very mysterious injuries, and despite advances in technology, no single theory seems to totally explain everything that happened to them. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the case is a huge inspiration for True Detective: Night Country and its dead scientists, which is exactly what makes this 2013 horror movie about the incident worth watching.

In Devil’s Pass, sometimes known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident, five students recreate the path of the original hiking party in hopes of discovering what happened to them. Instead, what they find is a bizarre set of conspiracies that tie together everything from the Philadelphia Experiment to MothMan. The movie relies mostly on a creepy and effective found footage format, but things don’t really pop off until the group finds a seemingly abandoned Soviet military base. While the movie’s twists and turns may not have a lot to do with Night Country, Devil’s Pass is a fun and very cold horror movie that’s heavy on Dyatlov details that will help give a little bit of extra context to Night Country’s finale. —Austen Goslin

Insomnia (1997)

A medium-shot of a man holding a pistol surrounded by fog. Image: Warner Home Video

Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Bjørn Floberg
Where to watch: Criterion Channel, Tubi

While modern audiences might be more familiar with Christopher Nolan’s 2002 remake of Insomnia starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, the original 1997 Norwegian film features one of the best performances of Stellan Skarsgård’s formidable career.

Insomnia follows the story of Jonas Engström (Skarsgård), a Swedish police officer now living in Norway who is sent to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl in a region of the arctic known colloquially as “the Land of the Midnight Sun.” While pursuing the suspect on foot, Jonas accidentally shoots and kills his partner with a gun he illegally retained from his time in the Swedish police. Haunted by the murder and his ever-worsening insomnia, Jonas must track down the original killer while staying one step ahead of his peers from discovering his own culpability. A delirious, paranoia-inducing thriller with suspenseful editing and a tortured, melancholic performance by Skarsgård, Insomnia is so damn good — it just might keep you up at night. —TE

The Last Winter

A man standing in front of a white container in the middle of the Antarctic tundra in The Last Winter. Image: IFC Films

Director: Larry Fessenden
Cast: Ron Perlman, Pato Hoffmann, James LeGros
Where to watch: AMC Plus, Shudder

Practically a movie about Tsalal itself, The Last Winter follows a group of scientists at a remote arctic research base as they study the effects of oil drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. Of course, the base itself is mostly run by the oil company looking to drill there, so their findings are heavily monitored. But as the drilling in the area continues, strange things start happening at the base that seem determined to sabotage the greedy company.

Steeped in supernatural strangeness and a deep fear of environmental doom, The Last Winter is a fascinating horror movie that does more than most to suggest that people and companies have no business invading the world’s coldest corners. —AG

The Terror (Season 1)

Close-up shot of two men with captain hats aboard a ship. Image: AMC

Creator: David Kajganich
Cast: Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Paul Ready
Where to watch: Prime Video, Shudder

Neither arctic horror nor television get much better than The Terror’s first season. The show tells a fictional version of the true story of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two polar exploration vessels that get trapped in the ice somewhere in Northern Canada. The series provides an absolutely unrelenting vision of both 19th century exploration and being trapped on a boat with people you hate.

The ships’ crews (which include stars like Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciaran Hinds) fall victim to infighting, weather, sickness, and supernatural forces, all while trying to survive the horrifying cold that surrounds them. All great cold-weather horror is about being trapped somewhere with nothing but the weather to stop you, and The Terror gets at that feeling better than almost anything. The cramped quarters of the ship give way to vast expanses of freezing ocean that look so cold you can practically feel them through your TV screen. —AG

The Thing

Kurt Russell holds up a lantern in a frosty room Image: Universal Pictures

Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Wilford Brimley
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu

The blueprint for every Arctic research base story told after it, John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece of cold-weather terror has only gotten better with age. The story, one of numerous adaptations of the short story “Who Goes There?,” follows a group of scientists who accidentally become the target of a creature from another world that can take the shape of any organic life it encounters, meaning that no one can trust each other, or even know if they themselves are still human. Of course, adding to the fear is the fact that they’re all trapped in their research base with nothing but Antarctic wilderness around them for miles in any direction.

Night Country’s parallels to The Thing are unmistakable, but the horror classic demands a revisit if you haven’t done so recently. Few movies have ever had the quality of disgusting creature effects Carpenter’s movie employs, but it’s the similarities and references to the base itself and its scientists that most closely link the movie to True Detective’s latest season. —AG

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