Directed By Roar Uthaug
Starring Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Rolf Kristian Larsen and Tomas Alf Larsen
Five twenty-something friends out on a ski trip – couples Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) and Mikal (Endre Martin Midtstigen), and their endearing and gigglesome fifth-wheel pal Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) – side-step the lengthy queues at the mainstream ski-slopes and opt for the stunning untouched vistas a little way off the beaten path instead. Not long after reaching the summit, Morten Tobias realises he shouldn’t have tried to land a 1080 Japan Air, and his leg is unceremoniously snapped open. Too far from the car to carry him, they’re forced to take shelter in an abandoned ski-lodge that looks like the architectural bastard child of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel and the camp from The Thing, and the group of friends have no choice but to cook up some Morten Tobias steaks to stay alive…Oh, wait, that was Alive. Never mind. Stuck in the run-down lodge with an injured friend, dwindling food and snow-bound conditions to endure, it isn’t long before they realise the ski lodge isn’t quite abandoned, and someone doesn’t take kindly to visitors… (Scooby says: “Ruh roh!”)
While the movie gains no points for conceptual originality and makes no attempt to re-invent the slasher flick – at its core, it’s still very much a ‘young people get stuck in secluded location and picked off by remorseless killing machine’ film – it does manage to be an immensely effective and successful entry in the genre. More than that however, writer Thomas Moldestad manages to achieve what few even think to attempt in the slasher genre – to create actual honest-to-god three-dimensional characters. Moldestad and director Roar Uthaug don’t so much subvert genre archetypes as humanise them; you might spot shades of the slutty blonde, the wacky comic relief guy or the feisty Survivor Girl in Cold Prey’s characters, but that’s not all that they are, and it’s shocking how much impact some depth and humanity has on the film. Cold Prey doesn’t insult the audience by offering up stock characters for the stab-happy slaughter, and far from being the disposable vapid teen fodder that you’d be glad to see introduced to the pointy end of a machete, the cast is comprised of characters who are intelligent, resourceful, funny and awfully hard not to root for. They make the right choices in bad situations, and when they make mistakes, they’re human errors in judgement that don’t illicit an eye-rolling “How could you be so dumb!” reaction from the viewer. It works wonders, and it’s refreshing to watch a slasher film with characters we’re emotionally invested in and actually don’t want to see chopped into mince and made into cheeseburgers.
The cast is shockingly able, from the eminently likeable and criminally cute Ingrid Bolsø Berdal to the peppy Viktoria Winge and goofy, yet sweet Rolf Kristian Larsen. Tomas Alf Larsen gets the short thrift character-wise, but he’s still a good deal more amiable than the generic ‘level-headed, safe but bland boyfriend’ archetype. Berdal and Kristian Larsen are the standouts by leaps and bounds, and when channelled through a talented cast, the handful of well-written characters elevate the film high above its counterparts.
If the film has a failing, it’s that it won’t please those gorehounds looking for blood, grue and creative kills – the killer is armed with a large pickaxe, and deaths amount to no more than a quick blow to the head or body, so if it’s inventive death scenes you’re after, look elsewhere. It’s perhaps a wise choice to spare the viewer any over-the-top bloodshed – elaborate death scenes are usually the saving grace of horror films, and we’re often just itching to see Random Bitchy Shirtless Teen #4 and her gal-pal Slutty McWhorebag become timely candidates for a post-birth abortion, but when we actually care about the characters, there’s no cause to relish in their premature death. What Cold Prey lacks in gore, it amply makes up for in tension, providing some clever third-act set-pieces and atmosphere to spare.
While it falters slightly with a last-minute bit of extraneous back-story and a tiny gap in logic, they’re problems miniscule enough to be instantly forgivable. Cold Prey is, on the whole, a tremendously taut, incredibly enjoyable slasher film bolstered by strong performances and uncharacteristically intelligent writing that unrelentingly speeds through its runtime with nary a wasted frame before hitting the most awesomely fitting closing credit song in memory. It’s a shockingly assured debut for director Roar Uthaug and proof that there’s still life in the slasher genre, even if you have to hop a continent to find it.
(Review originally published at WRAWReviews.co.uk)