Cold Prey (2006) - This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club, and since there is a "final girl" who against stereotype is strong and competent, not a virgin and not the first to die, basically a final girl who is like Stacie Ponder it is appropriate to include this film in this series. Check out all her works at her Website Final Girl
***Lots of Spoilers*** ***No really I mean I break down the entire film so watch it before reading the review.***
Since this film is supposed to be a bit of a mystery slasher yet does a sort of poor job hiding its mystery it will be spoiled during this review. You have been warned. Is a solid small scale slasher film set in Norway where Five hikers looking for a shelter after one of them breaks a leg get more than they bargained for in the lodge they find.
The story and the identity of the killer were not a surprise. After the opening scenes it was pretty obvious who the killer was. What was interesting was the turn that reveals the trauma that created this killer. In the first scene a boy with a rather large birthmark around his eye is running from the lodge frantic to get away from someone. The birthmark makes him very distinctive and the simple fact that it exists tells the audience that this is someone to remember. He falls over a snow cliff and is stuck in the snow. The chaser who we never really see breaks snow from the cliff and buries the child as he desperately struggles to free himself. Okay already this description is a spoiler, but so obvious is this scene that know one could possibly not pick up on it. Inter cut with this during the credits are reports on the television of hikers disappearing and searches. This lets us know that a whole lot of people go missing in the area but it is attributed to the winter conditions.
It is 30 or so years later and the film introduces our modern day characters, Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen), and his girlfriend Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Mikal (Endre Martin Midstigen) who is newly with girlfriend Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) and the fifth wheel is Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) who secretly pines for Jannicke but instead is the wise cracker of the group. Okay, not so secretly, but the two are not out in the open about their feelings either. They are driving on holiday to have a hike and ski adventure in Jotunheimen Norway. The small cast leads a US viewer to wonder how this could be a compelling slasher film. How high can the body count go with five people? They must introduce others later, right? Nope this is it, but surprisingly it is enough. Director and co writer Roar Uthaug creates a very tight tension filled little film. The isolation is built in as we watch the group climb the beautiful mountains of Norway, they reach the top and we see they are going to ski down into the bowl. Snowboarding they have a great day until Morten falls and breaks his leg. Again we get a nice change from the slasher formula when Jannicke takes control of the situation, she splints the leg and directs the group to find shelter. It is a relief that one of the guys whether competent or not, fails to step forward to try to be in control because of male role expectation in society.
When the group find the lodge they are so relieved and go about setting in to warm up and come up with a plan on how to get out of the mountains. It is a large place and if you were paying attention in the beginning of the film you know exactly where they are. They settle in and explore finding and starting the generator in the cellar, finding some alcohol to warm with and relieve Morten's pain. It is that point in the slasher film where the audience is being relaxed, getting to know characters and taking away the anticipation before quickly raising the tension again. Mikal and Ingunn head off to find a place to make out and enjoy each others company. They find a room and settle in for some nookie. As they make there way they find just enough disturbing things to set an edge for the audience. A burned out room, a bathroom which looks like it is either very dirty or in the past used as a slaughter house. A false scare prior to the real stuff just at the one third mark of the film. This is the setup, they all have drinks, find a journal for the lodge that has not been written in since the 70's. An image of the boy from the films start standing with his parents. The others mention the noise that Ingunn and Mikal were making in the cellar, "We weren't in the cellar."
Now anyone who has seen a horror slasher movie knows that having sex is the trope just before the killing starts and this film does not disappoint but again is very original in skewing the idea a bit. Ingunn is a virgin and stops Mikal from going too far. Down to her underwear she is enticing and he is good to go but she puts the breaks on and frustrates him. He doesn't know she is a virgin and is temporarily upset with the outcome of their foreplay calling her a cock tease he wanders back to the main room to drink his sexual frustrations away. Unlike traditional slasher trope in most cases this film does not have the bad kids who have sex be the first victims. That would be Jannicke and Eirik who have been together for quite a while and sleep together out near the fire. Instead the virginal Ingunn left alone in a more remote section of the lodge is destined to NOT be the Final Girl. The death scene is tightly executed and really tense. She is gone and the others won't notice for a while because it is bedtime, not until Mikal heads back to apologize the next morning, after he finds out the whole virgin thing from Jannicke. Eirik heads out into the snow to get the car and help. Jannicke clearly passes a keepsake to him so we will know if he made it out later or not if we see the little bangle. He find Ingunn dead outside but is whacked before he can do anything about it. Then there were three and nobody left has any idea anything is wrong. It is 50 minutes into the movie and about time for fireworks.
Jannicke and Makal are down in the cellar dealing with the generator while Morten is hobbling around upstairs wondering where everyone has got too. A lantern on in the back room of the cellar leads the duo to the fact that someone else is here. Noticing that some of the stuff from when the boy went missing they start to put the pieces together that the family in the photo had a horrible tragedy. They notice all the things that are around the place that do not fit with the idea that the lodge has been closed for 30 years. Who could have a collection of modern car keys in this abandon hut? People don't just leave their car keys behind. The two have a sense of urgency and the score of the film reflects it. It is strangely short lived as Jannicke heads off to smooth things over for Makal. Makal heads up to find Morton at the same time. The blood on the floor of Ingunn's room sets the tension back up, there is a lot and it is in "a body has been dragged here" shape. Jannicke gets to the guys and brings them back to the room. They know something is very strange and this combined with the findings in the cellar and they know they have to go. Now the door opens and closes in the distance and they run to barricade themselves in a room. The plan is to wait for Eirik to bring help, but you know that won't last and Mikal eventually feels so guilty about leaving Ingunn alone that he leaves the room to go see if he can find her. This is a trope that is played out in an original way also where he has a really close call with the killer and then makes it back to the room. Now the killer knows where the three are hiding and although he could get in he stops short and puts the pressure on the survivors. Mikal abandons the other two leaving through the window but gets caught in a bear trap. It is a great scene where the two watch from the room window as Mikal gets killed across the way. Then the killer looks straight at them, this is so effective!
They know they have to get out but the feelings Jannicke has for Morton stop her from just leaving him. They do have to get a new hiding place and do. She is again in control as he collapses into a crying blob she is the one with the courage to create action. She searches around risking herself and finding skis, a shotgun and one shell and a sled. So of course the problem is executing an escape. They are going to try to lure the killer into a lockable room of the cellar and then make their escape. Things of course do not work out, but she sees the bangle she gave to Eirik and knows no help is on the way. Eirik is half dead on the floor and a bit delirious. He can't walk so is not going anywhere. The plan doesn't work as expect. Do they ever?
The final battle is a very good tense sequence in which our final girl does what is necessary to survive. Overall this film is surprisingly good. What are normally cliche in a slasher movie are wonderfully original in execution. When the final reveal comes you will not be shocked by who the killer is but the film makers knew this so instead there is a flashback to the inciting incident that made him a killer. It is a pretty decent turn.