Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Five friends go snowboarding in the Norwegian mountains far from the usual tourist destinations. One of them mistimes a jump and lands violently, snapping his ankle and sending the bone through his skin. The solitude they preferred for their vacation now works against them as there’s no help for miles, their cell phones don’t work, and night is closing in fast. The gang decides to take refuge in a deserted building until morning, but surprise! The old, abandoned hotel they’ve found isn’t as deserted as they think…
Cold Prey opened huge in Norway in 2006 and subsequently spread across Europe like the Black Plague. In a good way. Having finally seen the film, I can only think that Europe is running about twenty years or so behind the US when it comes to the horror genre. That’s not a slam on Cold Prey, the movie is good… it just doesn’t scream “blockbuster!” There are a few things that make the movie stand out though.
Director Roar Uthaug and writer Thomas Moldestad do everything you’d expect in a slasher movie, but they do it all really well. (Which I guess is a bit unexpected.) It follows almost every slasher convention to a tee, from the sexy girl getting killed first to the survivors splitting off on their own only to be picked off one by one, but it feels and looks better than most. The killer is revealed slowly and traditionally, starting with shots of just his hands or feet and the sound of his breathing. There are just enough “jump” scares to entertain and keep you on edge without getting repetitive and boring.
The movie looks fantastic, with beautiful shots of the mountains and snowboarding action filling the first and final thirds. The middle of the film is also sharply shot with crisp, claustrophobic interiors throughout the creepy hotel. Open areas upstairs give way to tight, cramped, dangerous hallways and small, blood-spattered rooms below. Uthaug paces the movie perfectly as well. The friends are given time to mingle and interact before the killer interrupts the sleepover, but once people do start dropping the film roars toward its suspenseful conclusion.
Another unusual feature of Cold Prey can be found in the acting department. All five of the leads act naturally and believably, and none of them make you root for their disembowelment. When’s the last time you watched a slasher movie that didn’t have at least one obnoxious prick that you really hoped would get a hand-blender shoved up their ass? The stand-out is Ingrid Bolso Berdal as Jannicke, the defacto leader of the five. Sure she’s cute and I want to take her home and keep her warm, but I also respect her acting ability.
Even as a fine example of the genre, Cold Prey has its faults. There’s a fair amount of blood on display, but very little gore. Death by pick-axe shouldn’t be as pretty as it appears here. Plus, the killer’s apparent method of body disposal leaves nothing to show for all his years of hard work. While his motivational reveal is interesting, his physical reveal (when his mask is removed) is a gigantic letdown. He looks cool in his parka and darkly-tinted goggles at first, both threatening and imposing, but eventually they have to come off. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find beneath it all, but it definitely wasn’t a dude who looks like he should be teaching math in Oslo.
Norwegian cinema has only recently begun to seriously focus on horror with movies like Dark Woods, Hidden, and the impressive looking Dead Snow. As the quantity of their output increases, the quality will inevitably dip. But for now at least, they seem to be one of the few countries making worthwhile horror films. Of course, that doesn’t make them immune to genre mistakes… Cold Prey II is already out and by all accounts pales in comparison to the first film. And hungry Norwegians are eating it up in record numbers…
Cold Prey will be released on DVD January 20th from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Check out the (dubbed) trailer below.
Bottom Line: Cold Prey is a solid entry into the crowded slasher genre, and while it doesn’t bring anything new, it does everything well. The cinematography is impressive with both beautifully shot mountain vistas and tight, claustrophobic interiors. It’s bloody at times, but lacks any worthwhile gore. The killer’s motivation is interesting, but his ultimate physical reveal is pretty bland. And the director’s name is Roar, which is extremely cool.