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Cold Prey [DVD]
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Following a gruesome accident, five friends' idyllic snowboarding expedition to the Jotunheimen mountains takes a turn for the eerie when they are forced to take shelter from a ravaging storm in an abandoned ski lodge. Empty and silent, the cavernous lodge seems deserted -- but there are secrets here. These secrets are long buried, thought forgotten and very, very dangerous. Before the night is out, those who survive will have discovered the true meaning of terror and looked into the very face of evil. In the classic tradition of seminal horror films Wolf Creek, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine, Cold Prey is a tense, stylish and viciously unnerving journey into a frozen nightmare.
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The Norwegian title actually translated as "Open Season" and the first film is a fairly conventional take on the slasher movie; young group go snowboarding, a mishap puts them in an abandoned hotel - cue stalking psychopath. The storyline isn't particularly original, but the beautifully evocative icy Norwegian landscape, at turns glinting in sunlight then becoming ferociously bleak, adds a little extra to the setting together with a creeping, menacing pace, well judged by director Roar Uthaug.
The second film very neatly takes up where the first left off, this time closer in feel and concept to something like "Halloween" as the true force of the killer is unleashed.
This film is even more conventional, perhaps a little less successful than the first, but well handled by its director Mats Stenberg.
Both films are presented in 16.9 widescreen in Norwegian language with English subtitles.
The first runs at 97 mins. with a short "behind the scenes" feature and a trailer; the second runs for 86 mins. with just the trailer as an extra.
A rather good, recommendable pairing, sufficiently different from their American antecedents, well made, acted and conceived. Certainly worth adding to any discerning viewer's horror/thriller collection.
One thing though, as a language teacher I find it a bit depressing how many people have used phrases like 'DESPITE the subtitles' or made some comment or other about subtitled films. I know they're just being honest but most of the world have to watch loads of stuff with subtitles. In a lot a Northern European countries a lot of the most popular TV series are foreign with subtitles (mostly British and American). I'd really love it if people weren't so terrified of subtitles, they're missing out on a whole world of stuff out there!
And the Norwegian horror movie "Cold Prey" doesn't really deviate from what has worked for many other such movies. Fortunately some solid acting and some lovely stylistic flourishes add a unique look to this movie, but in the end it's neither more nor less than it appears -- a maniac in an old house, pickaxing people to death.
Five twentysomethings have come to the ultimate mountain for some snowboarding and skiing... until Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) breaks his leg two minutes in. The only shelter is a long-abandoned mountain lodge, which also has a convenient stash of food and booze. They drink, party and make out that evening, since they can't get back to the car before morning.
You can guess what happens next: After backing off on sex with Mikal (Endre Martin Midtstigen), Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) is horribly pickaxed to death, and Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen) is caught on his way back. And Mikal and Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) finally uncover the facts -- there's a deranged maniac living in the lodge, and he's been killing everyone who comes there (and apparently taking their wedding rings).
As a slasher flick, "Cold Prey" is fairly tame -- the goriest and most horrific stuff comes when director Roar Uthaug keeps pointing the camera at Morten Tobias' horribly fractured leg (complete with "SUPER GLUE?!" shots). And the whole movie simply drips with atmosphere -- grimy shadowy basements, pale dreary light, cold concrete hallways.
It kind of makes up for the fact that the plot is strictly A-to-B, with the assorted people getting picked off one by one by the Evil Masked Killer and running frantically around the house. Uthaug lovingly splashes the sets with gouts of blood and pickaxes coming out of nowhere, and a masked killer who grunts and swings indiscriminately.
But there are a few moments where it rises above the genre -- the characters are smart enough to barricade themselves in a room, and one of the more gruesome killings is paired (oddly enough) with bittersweet, vaguely religious music. And the adrenaline-charged climax atop an icy crevasse (with one of the characters waking underneath a pile of corpses) is nice work indeed.
The actors all do very nice work -- Midtstigen does an excellent impression of a guy in shock, Winge has a brilliant final scene, and Larsen is excellent as the dork with unexpected courage. Berdal has some problems with looking horrified/terrified (she looks like she's trying not to laugh, actually), but is quite good when required to be a hardcore fighter or the mature, sensible one.
And I'll say this -- Uthaug comes up with a very realistic slasher villain. Rune Melby appears in about one minute of the whole movie, but his bewildered eyes and body language say it all.
"Cold Prey" is your basic slasher movie -- albeit in Norwegian -- but it does have some nice moments that set it apart from the pack.
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