Film Club: Cold Prey

Once upon a time, Final Girl was all about slasher films. I'd review nothing but slashers, deconstruct slashers, write poems about slashers, write slash fiction about slashers...

Okay, I never wrote poems or slash fiction about slashers, although in hindsight, that seems a big shame. My point is that I was all about slashers because I love them. I don't care that even most horror fans think slasher flicks are on the bottom of the genre totem pole! I don't care that most of them are terrible films and most of my love stems from a childhood nestled in the warm bosom of the genre's heyday! Love is totally blind, except when it's not.

I can't help myself. Along comes a film like Cold Prey (aka Fritt Vilt, 2006), and my love blossoms anew...and I don't even feel like I need to hide my ardor because Cold Prey isn't on the bottom of the totem pole. It's a damn fine horror movie that just happens to be a slasher flick. So there.

The film is full of genre tropes, and seasoned horror fans will likely roll their eyes as they check items off the list know, genre tropes:

  • a group of friends (two couples and the odd man out, natch) head off for a weekend of fun (in this case, snowboarding action)
  • their cell phones can't raise a signal
  • there's a sensible girl (the Final one, natch) and a not-so-sensible girl who makes out in the backseat with her man
  • there's leg trauma when snowboarding action leads to snowboarding accidents for the odd man out
  • the killer has a collection of mementos
  • so on and so on and so on

Cold Prey, however, is all "whatever" about these tropes and turns most of them on their heads, making everything feel as fresh as a snow fall on a Norwegian mountaintop. Most of this oh-so-fresh feeling comes from the characters themselves: though they're not fleshed out with life stories and awkward narrative conversations, they're...solid, if that makes sense. In a shocking twist of events, they're not annoying! They're friends! The not-so-sensible girl is actually totally sensible! The odd man out isn't an irritating prankster! Jannicke, the Final Girl, is one for the record books! For the most part, they act like people would likely act when they realize that the abandoned hotel they're using for shelter isn't completely abandoned...because there's a killer in there.

Even the killer in Cold Prey is a delightful change of pace from the slasher norm. Sure, he's got a backstory (albeit just a tantalizing piece of one), a mask of sorts, and a weapon of choice- the pick axe- but he's not some backwoods mountaintop cannibal. He doesn't torture anyone. He doesn't try to sex up the girls. He doesn't arrange the bodies in some bizarre mise-en-scene for the Final Girl to stumble across, he dumps the bodies elsewhere. He kills people who stumble into his lair the way people kill spiders lurking in corners. It's self-preservation! And craziness, of course, but I appreciate the simplicity of it.

All of this bucking of trends is wonderful, but I wouldn't care a fig- not a single fig!- if Cold Prey wasn't successful. As it is, I find myself caring about it several figs worth. It's a beautiful film to look at, both inside and outside the abandoned hotel (which features a sly nod to The Shining's Room 237). The location is truly isolated, and the whole thing is right scary. Just enough gore, just enough everything.

Who says slashers are dead? Not me! My love remains an eternal flame- not unlike the one The Bangles sang of in "Eternal Flame". Or maybe it's completely unlike the one they sang of- I don't know the words to that song.

A wee note on the sequel: much like Halloween II (1981), Cold Prey 2 picks up where the first film left off and promptly moves the action to a hospital. It is really, really good. Surprisingly good. As good as the first film. In some regards, better. It might even be better than Halloween II. That's right, I said it! I loved it. I don't think it's gotten a Region 1 release yet (region-free DVD players are the best thing ever!), but it's definitely worth tracking down.

Film Club Coolies, y'all! Show 'em love.
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