[review by Justin Kerswell]
Norway doesn't exactly have a history that I'm aware of horror films – let alone slasher flicks (although, like buses, there's another coming in 2008 called ROVDYR seemingly inspired by its good show at the Norwegian box office) – so I was keen to see COLD PREY after it garnered a rash of very positive reviews on the web. I expected to like it a lot, but despite being well shot this snowbound effort ultimately left me a little cold.
The plot is simplicity itself. Well, to actually say that COLD PREY has a plot would perhaps be a gross exaggeration; not that it meant it would be a bad film (after all, the original HALLOWEEN's leanness in that department is one of its many strengths). Five friends in their early 20s head off into the wilds for an afternoon of snow boarding: a couple who are hot for each other, Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) and Mikal (Endre Martin Midtstigen); another couple, with commitment problems Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); as well as their goofy companion Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen).
It isn't long before Morten Tobias comes a cropper and snaps his leg near the bottom of a mountain. Too far from the car and the local village, the group spy a large, isolated building near by and make their way to it. It turns out to be a hotel, but no-one's there so they have no alternative but to break in. Inside, the hotel seems stuck in a 70s time warp, and clearly hasn't been used in a long time.
Whilst the couples couple off for a little slap and tickle, Morten Tobias is left nursing his leg with a large glass of vodka. However, before the night is out they realise that the hotel does indeed have one other guest and he's none-too-keen on sharing room service ...
Isolated, snowbound locales make for great slasher movie locations, from SATAN'S BLADE (1982), to ICED (1988) and most recently SHREDDER (2003). However, the main inspiration for Roar Uthaug's COLD PREY (both in structure and pacing) is clearly Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (1980). Herein lies the film's greatest weakness: whilst I'm all for a slow burn when it comes to establishing characters and background, COLD PREY meanders when it should be rushing and although well constructed never quite hits the levels of hysteria (and sheer entertainment value) you'd expect from the best of the subgenre.
Without giving too much away, there is a psychotic killer on the loose (this is a slasher flick after all – although, if you watch the making of that comes with the British DVD you'll not hear it referred to which makes me wonder if there was a little bit of embarrassment from cast and crew on that point). The film opens with what appears to the murder of a young boy, buried in snow. This is followed by a montage of news clips about missing skiers and tourists over the years, as well as establishing that the boy in the prologue went missing from the hotel. COLD PREY's protagonists discover the luggage of missing people hidden behind the kitchen, as well as newspapers with headlines screaming 'Hotel of evil!' (although it's never explained why).
The killer scores points for looking vaguely creepy – a blur of furs and dark glasses – and carrying a pickaxe (more than a nod to MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)). But beyond that the villain of the piece fails to have much presence, or particularly create any real frisson of fear. The would-be victims are uniformly well played, and are generally sympathetic but the at times languid pacing made it difficult to get wrapped up in the urgency of their predicament. The film is shot with icy grey and blue hues, which whilst emphasises the impressively barren surroundings makes for a rather one note feel that makes it even harder to engage with what's happening on the screen.
Obviously, the slasher flick is both blessed and cursed by conventions – and is not exactly known for its innovations. Hide and seek theatrics are always fun, and COLD PREY certainly does have its moments. However, the only thing that really jumps out as ingeniously gruesome is the scene where the final victim-to-be has to pretend to be just another cadaver to escape the unwanted attentions of the killer. The fact that it's topped off with a ho-hum, ambiguous (read lazy) ending doesn't really help matters.
Not a really bad slasher film by any means, but on first viewing I found it curiously unengaging. Perhaps my hopes were set too high by overly-enthusiastic reviews on the web. Maybe I was watching a different film – I didn't jump once and I can't fathom how it could be called “Probably the most perfect slasher movie ever made” (well, unless you'd only ever seen this and Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN (2007) rehash!).
Due to be released in the US in 2008, and remade shortly after (natch). I might warm to it a little more on a second viewing. Don't expect the second coming and you might just enjoy it.
[review by Joseph Henson of the Bodycount Continues]
This Norwegian slasher film exerts a cold potential; its claustrophobic, snow-bound setting compliments the film's pick-axe wielding psychopath quite aptly, though after all is said and done, COLD PREY feels a little too frosty on the uptake of winding down the lives of its victims!
Five friends head to the snowy mountains of Norway for a weekend of snowboarding; when one from the group fractures his leg on the way down the slopes, the other four drag him to an isolated building that turns out to be a dormant hotel. Finding the settlement devoid of any human presence, they break in, splint up their friend's injured leg, and decide to spend the night. Of course, this being a slasher film, it isn't long before another presence outside of the group is made known; and as the snow falls rapidly outside, so must the bodies inside!
I can't really recommend COLD PREY to those looking for something a little more frenetic and energetic, though I wouldn't go so far as to bury it underneath a snow bank, either. The best I can say about the movie is that its chilling, snowy atmosphere is well-handled, though in a negative reversal of that, said atmosphere takes its toll on the film's already-long running time. There were moments during the film when I desperately wanted the film to speed up a hair or two; some of the setting accentuation could've been excised in favor of getting to the point, and as we all know, an effective slasher film has two very important points among a dozen: suspense and murders. COLD PREY's killer is showcased via an odd editing choice: we see a boot here, and an arm there, but never enough of him to generate any real sense of fear or suspense. And, since his identity turns out to be perfunctory, you begin wondering why they went to the trouble of keeping his visage hidden. To give the film its due after the criticisms, it is, like I said before, well-shot and atmospherical, and the victims-to-be are a sympathetic bunch, and there are a few moments of sublime, gothic dread, but after all is said and done, COLD PREY left this reviewer searching for a warm blanket, and a better movie!
female:1 / male:4
1) Female killed with pickaxe
2) Male has neck broken
3) Male killed with pickaxe
4) Male killed with pickaxe
5) Male killed with pickaxe