Reviewed by Scott Weinberg
One of the coolest things about the horror genre is that it has very little trouble "translating" across international borders. Even without subtitles you could enjoy the hell out of High Tension (France), Hell's Ground (Pakistan), Anatomy (Germany), and The Orphanage (Spain), plus you can frequently find a few titles from places like New Zealand (Black Sheep), Australia (Wolf Creek), England (The Descent), and Ireland (Shrooms). Basically, horror crosses all cultures, countries, and languages -- which is only one of the reasons we all adore the genre so much. (Horror "translates" a whole lot better than other genres, is what I'm saying, regardless of the flicks' origins.) These are the thoughts that bounced through my head as I sat down to watch the award-winning Norwegian horror flick known as Cold Prey.
Surprisingly well-acted and powerfully pretty to look at, Cold Prey (aka Fritt Vilt) is about five young friends who trek into the mountains for a lovely day of snowboarding ... until one of the guys mis-times a fancy flip, breaks his ankle, and is left writhing in pain at the bottom of the mountain. Isolated and out of contact with the rest of the world, the injured guy's pals (two males, two (lovely) females) drag him to safety within an abandoned hotel in the middle of nowhere. (OK, maybe not "safety," if you get my meaning, because this creepy old edifice is the home of -- you guessed it -- a raving lunatic who enjoys jamming his pick-ax into peoples' backs.)
So obviously we're not dealing with anything unique, plot-wise. The basic story structure is the same as you'll find in 500 different slasher flicks, but just like a familiar meal always tastes good when you toss a few new spices into the mix, Cold Prey benefits from an exotic locale, a handful of unexpectedly well-drawn characters, and a very stylish directorial style. (Lead actress Ingrid Bolso Bernal won an "Amanda" Award for her performance, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture down in Norway!) Director Roar Uthaug has a fantastic eye for breath-taking exteriors ... and when his movie (slowly but surely) makes its way towards the horrific stuff, well, it's actually pretty creepy -- which is something that very few recent American slashers can claim. The gore is minimal-yet-effective; the jolts work impressively well; and there's a satisfying sense of dread that arrives mainly because Uthaug has taken ample time to set up his characters, his location, and his (admittedly simple) premise.
The third act of Cold Prey is a tight-fisted and enjoyably twisted little game of cat and mouse, as the survivors bolt from room to room trying to avoid / lure / thwart the killer at every turn. Plus (of
course) there are a few freaky surprises hidden downstairs in a secret pantry ... but I wouldn't want to spoil the fun of discovery. Bottom
line: You've seen this movie many (many) times before, but there's always room for another solid slasher flick, particularly one that's clearly made with some real care and craftsmanship.
[ Cold Prey had its European premiere at the 2007 UK FrightFest.
Although it's already available in many countries, the American DVD release has yet to be determined. ]