Retro Review: Cold Prey
Over the past few years Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden mostly) has provided us with some excellent horror films, the best known probably being Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson), later adapted as Let Me In (2010, Matt Reeves) in the U.S. Other notable titles include Dead Snow (2009, Tommy Wirkola), Next Door (2005, Pål Sletaune) and this review‘s subject; Cold Prey (2006, Roar Uthaug).
Cold Prey is a Norwegian horror film that was released in 2006 and is the feature debut of director Roar Uthaug. It stars newcomers Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Viktoria Winge and Endre Martin Midtstigen. It appeared at various film festivals, such as the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival and later spawned two sequels.
Cold Prey starts off like your typical teen slasher film and never looks back. Five young people (two couples and their comic relief male friend) head out to a remote area in Jotunheimen to try out the ultimate snowboarding slope. On their way down, funny-man Morten Tobias breaks his leg and the group is forced to take shelter in an abandoned hotel nearby. They soon discover that the hotel was officially closed 30 years ago after a tragedy struck the owner‘s family, but later find out that they seem to have some unfriendly company.
The film doesn‘t ever try to hide that it‘s richly formula based. It indulges in it without ever crossing the line and making the clichés unbearable. In a very classical manner, the number of main characters (five) seems to be chosen for various reasons. A) They fit into one car. B) One gets to know each character well enough to care if something happens to them. C) If each couple goes somewhere private, one person is left alone, doomed to wonder around and get in harm‘s way. Of course, one couple (Jannicke and Eirik) are clearly some years into their relationship and are having some sort of trust/commitment issues, while the other couple (Mikal and Ingunn) have just met, can‘t keep their hands off each other and seem to have absolutely no problem going to pretty much any of the bases up against Morten Tobias‘ back during the car ride.
The final girl is there, the terrible place is there, the sins of the past are there, and oh, yes, the weapon of choice is there. The setting bears a resemblance to The Shining, being a “hotel of evil” surrounded by snow and blizzard, and even more so because of the retro interior. The unfriendly company, that turns out to be a tall, strong, psychotic killer, moves around in the silent manner and grace of Michael Myers, while his personality is well hidden behind his mask. What comes as a neat surprise is that he doesn‘t seem to have any sexual complications, neither enjoying or lingering more on the girls than the boys. However, his territorial issues are shocking.
Cinematography and editing are considerably above average and the delibarate green/greyish color tone creates just the right atmosphere. Interestingly, the killer’s POV-shots are kept to a minimum, leaving the audience relating more to the tension and fright of the adolescents than the tension between stalker/stalked bodies. Therefore, the audience does not correspond with the killer’s attitude or cruelty, totally in keeping with the fact that the characters are rather likeable and not irritatingly stupid, as so often is the case. By employing this technique, the most heavily criticized part of stalker/slasher films (audience relating to killer’s violence) has been eliminated, instead creating a greater empathy for the victims.
Final Verdict: This film delivers everything you could possibly want from a slasher film, including the recommended dosage of cheap thrills and humour. The predictability of the script is arguable, but the cast has a good day at the office. The enjoyment of the film lies first and foremost in how conventional it is, while still managing to appear fresh. In a time of so many bad or mediocre horror films, this one is truly a delight.