Friday, April 15, 2016

Mayhem and Mass Murder Most Satisfying :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to Mats Stenberg's Excellent Norwegian Slasher Film Sequel, Cold Prey II (2008)

Our sequel today kicks off almost exactly where the last film checked out, with the lone and nearly frozen-solid survivor of the Jotunheimen massacre being picked up by the authorities and taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Otta. Now, the hospital in question is on the cusp of being shutdown, which explains the minimal staff of one doctor, Herman (Såheim), one resident, Camilla (Rovik), and one nurse, Audhild (Mørck), and the grand total of (now) only three patients.

Here, the wrung-out but hyper-vigilant Jannicke (Berdal) recaps her tale of woe; how she and four friends went out snowboarding, and how one of them broke an ankle; and so, they sought refuge in a seemingly abandoned ski lodge, not knowing there was a homicidal Beardy McWeirdo (Melby) squatting in the basement, who quickly introduces himself, and his ice axe, to these stranded travelers and picks them off one by one, setting up a final showdown as he disposes the bodies in a deep glacier crevice, only to wind up being Final Girl’d most righteously and deposited into the chasm instead.

Chief Constable Einar (Schaanning) is a little dubious of this debriefing, but the patient was brought in covered in blood that obviously wasn’t hers, and she was found with one hand frozen to the killer’s ice axe, also drenched in blood; and so, he leads an expedition out onto the glacial ice where Jannicke’s gruesome account proves true when they recover all the bodies from the crevice, including the killer. And as Jannicke tries to make peace with what happened, with Camilla lending an extremely sympathetic ear, and while Einar tries to piece together the mystery of Beardy McWeirdo's origins (-- and pins several more missing persons cases on him), turns out the killer wasn’t as dead as everyone thought due to the extremely cold conditions, who is then completely resuscitated by the unwitting hospital staff – a decision everyone will soon come to regret.

Cold Prey a/k/a Fritt Vilt (2006) was a pleasant surprise when I unearthed it on Hulu several years ago. It’s not very often you find any kind of intelligence in a slasher movie, and even rarer still to find an actual intelligent slasher film; and leave it to the Scandinavians to go 2 for 2 on that front as Cold Prey II a/k/a Fritt Vilt II (2008) proved just as suspenseful, just as fun, just as intelligent and, in the end, just as entertaining as the first one.

American slasher movies and there tropes were an obvious influence, here, with huge nods to Friday the 13th (1980), The Prey (1984), and especially Halloween II (1981), what with the hospital setting and all. Cold Prey was directed by Roar Uthaug, who also directed the eco-disaster flick, The Wave (2015), and is currently helming the new Tomb Raider reboot due in 2017. Mats Stenberg took over for the sequel, marking his directorial debut, and while the film is a lot of fun once the blood starts hitting the fan after the killer is revived, I found myself actually enjoying the early stages of the sequel more as everyone dealt with the ramifications of the first massacre. I loved watching Jannicke deal with her fear and PTSD, and the procedural vibe of the discovery, clean-up, and initial autopsies and the evidence gathering on the victims from the first movie. It’s rare that we ever get to see such an in depth look at the aftermath of one of these cinematic mass-murders, but I found it utterly fascinating and would kinda love to see a whole slasher movie told from this after-action angle. 

Played on a razor’s edge of raw emotion with a psychotic twinge, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal’s Jannicke is probably one of the greatest, unheralded Final Girls of all time as she tries and fails to convince everyone of the danger they’re all in, and later, trying to keep as many of the others alive as she can and out of danger. (Hard to do when you’re doped to the gills and initially restrained to your hospital bed.) Which all leads to a final showdown between predator and prey that had me a bit nervous as the climax started to unravel but the ultimate resolution had me grinning from ear to ear in a fool me once, and you will never, ever fool me again, sense.

Since the first Cold Prey I had seen Berdal as one of the unfortunate tourists who falls prey to the horde of Toxic Crusaders in The Chernobyl Diaries (2012), and as Atalanta, an Amazonian warrior and one of Hercules’ posse in Hercules (2014), which was pretty great if you haven’t seen it yet, and where she teamed up with Uthaug again for the period piece, Escape (2012), where she plays the psychotic leader of a band of thieves. And while Berdal has commented that she enjoyed playing Jannicke, she has also stated she is done with the character. And while there is a Cold Prey III (2010), which I have not seen -- yet, my understanding is it’s a prequel to tell the origin story of Beardy McWeirdo, which is touched on a bit in this movie, and makes me very happy because the blunt finality of the ending of Cold Prey II is absolutely perfect and I hope they never, ever ruin it. 

Look, there’s only two kinds of slasher movies in this world: good ones, and bad ones. And those can be divided into two subcategories where we either root for the victims to survive or encourage the killers to put the gathered cannon fodder out of our collective cinematic misery. And while there are hundreds of examples of the latter, the former are really quite rare ever since the initial wave broke in the early 1980s (-- the Scream franchise a notable exception), which is why I found the Cold Prey films to be a breath of cool fresh air in an otherwise stagnating genre. These films are about the characters and the dire situation they find themselves in, not about how they die – in fact, you don’t want any of these people to die; a welcome relief for me anyways, in a genre that is usually double-stacked to the brim with irredeemable idiots, outright pricks, dudebros, hos, and skanky douche-nozzles, which kinda makes us root for the killers only by default. 

Thus, these Cold Prey films may test the patience of some viewers (-- the first kill in the sequel doesn’t occur until the film is nearly half over), but me, hell, I like an occasional change of pace when it comes to my body count pictures. As always, your spilled blood type may vary.

Cold Prey II (2008) Fantefilm :: Shout! Factory / EP: Magne Lyngner, Thomas Løberg, Martin Sundland / P: Kristian Sinkerud / AP: Roar Uthaug / D: Mats Stenberg / W: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug / C: Anders Flatland / E: Jon Endre Mørk / M: Magnus Beite / S: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, Johanna Mørck, Fridtjov Såheim, Per Schaanning, Rune Melby

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