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Sunday, January 18, 2009

COLD PREY -- DVD review by porfle

Another throwback to the old stalker-slasher tradition, the Norwegian thriller COLD PREY, aka FRITT VILT (2006) concentrates less on graphic violence and gore than simply trying to keep us on the edge of our seats. It's familiar stuff, and quite predictable, yet it still manages to be a fun and entertaining spookhouse ride.

The gang of young victims-to-be follows the same template as, among other films, both versions of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. There's the hero couple, Jannicke and Eirik, who are responsible and level-headed; the make-out couple, consisting of cute, immature dude Mikal and dumb-blonde babe Ingunn; and finally, the fifth-wheel loner Morten, who playfully admits to having an intense love affair with his own hand.

While everyone else is crowding into packed ski resorts, Eirik whisks the gang off to a remote mountain location for some snowboarding, despite recent news reports of a rash of skier disappearances in the area (like, around 110). It only takes Morten about a minute to break his leg, and, wouldn't you know it, nobody can get a signal on their cell phones. Jannicke, quickly asserting herself as the most useful member of the group, sets the broken bone herself and then spies an abandoned hotel in the distance where they can hole up for the night. All of this occurs within the first fifteen minutes, so it's clear that this movie is wasting no time moving things right along.

The secluded hotel itself is an awesome actual location that helps to give this familiar story its own unique feel. Made to look old and disused, it has plenty of long, dark hallways, creepy basements, and other cobwebby nooks and crannies that are just right for a mysterious killer to lurk around in. Director Roar Uthaug keeps the tension taut as one by one his hapless characters find themselves alone in various parts of the building, gradually realizing that they're being stalked. When all hell finally breaks loose, an exhilarating level of suspense is maintained to the very end, punctuated by some pretty effective jump scares. And since we don't really care all that much about most of these characters, it's generally a fun experience rather than a dark and disturbing one.

This good-looking film is slickly directed and photographed and has plenty of chilly, gloomy atmosphere but surprisingly little gore. The cast is capable, especially Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Jannicke, whom I'd definitely want to have along if I were in a similar predicament. Her character is brave and resourceful--she coolly Super-Glues the gaping wound on Morten's leg shut--while at one point allowing herself a rather stunning act of cowardice that somehow makes her a bit more believable. As Ingunn, Viktoria Winge lends the film what little sex appeal it has as she runs around in her skimpies while avoiding the killer's pickaxe. Among the male leads, Rolf Kristian Larsen is the most noteworthy as Morten. The killer himself is pretty generic, and is most effective when off-camera.

The DVD image is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Surround 5.1 for the Norwegian soundtrack and 2.0 for the English one. You'll probably want to listen to the Norwegian soundtrack with subtitles after getting a load of the bad English dubbing, which sounds kind of like the Disney version of a Miyazaki cartoon. Somehow I don't think Norwegian translates very well to English, or at least not in this case.

A generous helping of extras includes: an alternate ending with shots from the movie augmented by storyboards; a making-of featurette; brief looks at the visual FX, sound design, and other aspects of the production; the evolution of the opening car scene, from rehearsal to final editing; eight minutes of bloopers (some of which lose a little in translation); two short films; a music video; and trailers and TV spots.

COLD PREY doesn't really offer anything new to those of us who have seen our share of slasher movies, and, lacking any real emotional depth or memorable moments, is soon forgotten after the fadeout. But with its atmospheric setting, likable characters, and frantic pace, it holds up well as a crisply-executed and chillingly suspenseful thriller.

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