From Anchor Bay

BLUE RUIN’s Honest Amateur Revenge

Blue Ruin. 2014. Directed & Written by Jeremy Saulnier.
Starring Macon Blair, Tyler Byrne, Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Alex Orr, and Anish Savjani.
Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Rated 18A. 90 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★★
blueruin-poster02 Personally, I love revenge thrillers just because they satisfy the real life need at times to dive into something similar to our daily lives. Many people can relate to the emotions of people who have family members, friends, loved ones killed or hurt in horrible ways. This is something we see in the news all the time. Even in our own hometowns. However, many revenge thrillers often push our limits of what’s believable. For instance, a lot of the lead characters in films of this sub-genre are often made out to be the perfect killing machine – even if they’re some mild mannered type before the events which change their lives, afterwards they become relentless, near superhuman people who can withstand any and all pain, as well as seem to automatically know their way around guns (including how to load them & et cetera) and have a plethora of unique ideas about how to modify simple everyday items into weapons. While I can get into some of those films just because they’re often good fun, when done appropriately and well-enough, I really respect a film that goes for a revenge thriller story but subverts what we’ve come to expect from other films of this sub-genre. This is one of those movies, which takes everything you thought you knew about the revenge thriller genre and turns everything on its head.

Blue Ruin is the story of a man who has nearly lost everything. Dwight lives out of his rundown old blue car (the titular Blue Ruin). He eats out of dumpsters, rifling through them to find whatever food he can that still smells edible. He takes a nice bath when he can – until the people who own the home he’s taking one in return. One morning he’s picked up by the police, however, they aren’t arresting him. An officer tells Dwight that Wade Cleland is about to be released; he is the man who murdered Dwight’s parents. After this, Dwight goes back to his home in Virginia. When Wade is released, Dwight follows him and proceeds to, messily, kill him in a bathroom stall. While escaping, Dwight drops his own keys in the bathroom, and ends up having to steal a limousine Wade was brought home in. The car itself is registered still under information leading back to his sister’s home. Dwight finds his sister, reveals what he has done, and begs them to leave in case the Cleland family decides to take their own revenge. Of course, this is what eventually happens. These events spark a brutal, raw war between Dwight and the rest of the Clelands, who will seemingly stop at nothing to avenge the death of Wade.
blue-ruin01The most excellent part about Blue Ruin, aside from Macon Blair’s absolutely phenomenal and subtle performance as Dwight, is the fact they didn’t try to make the lead character into some kind of ultimate assassin who has suddenly come into his own after deciding to take revenge. I mean, it’s awesome to see action, a bit of blood and guts, all that, but it’s nice to also see Jeremy Saulnier write a character who is very real and lifelike. Dwight only knows he wants revenge. He proves, time and time again, he does not know how to go about actually taking it – but still it drives him. Like any of us if our parents were murdered, Dwight is consumed by the thought of revenge. When we first see him try to kill Wade it is an absolutely astonishing mess. It really works because most of us would have no idea how to grab hold of somebody and cut their throat, other than to grab on and try, which is exactly how Dwight goes about the kill. This doesn’t go as planned, and things get really sloppy. I think immediately this shows us Saulnier’s revenge thriller is unlike most in the sub-genre. That’s a-okay by me. I think this is a really fresh film because it doesn’t fall prey to the same slips and traps as others in the sub-genre do. The market nowadays is flooded with tons of revenge thrillers, especially after Liam Neeson and Luc Besson’s Taken became a runaway hit.
blue-ruin04The acting in Blue Ruin is absolutely spectacular. Macon Blair has gotten a lot of praise for this role. Rightfully so. It is a real subdued performance, and you can feel the pain of Dwight coming through, radiating out of Blair at almost every moment. There are also times where you can just tell he is not equipped to deal with the murder coming along with his revenge – one scene, after watching a man get his face blown off, shows him on the side of the road by his car puking out his guts. In general, though, he really plays a broken down man here for the most of this film, and it is some of the finest acting in the last decade. Some of the best really in the entire revenge thriller sub-genre. Period – ever. I loved it so much solely because of Blair. It doesn’t hurt there are a few good supporting roles. Always awesome to see Devin Ratray – best known as Buzz from Home Alone. There is mostly focus on Blair, as he’s alone a lot of the time, or preparing himself for the revenge. However, there are small roles worth checking out here, and they fully round out the cast instead of just having Blair acting up a beautiful storm while no one else does anything. It’s nice to see even the smallest roles performed well.
blue-ruin05The cinematography in Blue Ruin is gorgeous. It really looks great. Especially when juxtaposed with all the grim scenes. Some of the effects are just as great. Right off the bat when Dwight tries to kill Wade there is a nice bit of savage practical blood work, and you know right from then there will be more and more of this to come. The brutality in this movie really fits because it’s very real. There are not a ton of situations where you just marvel solely at how impossible it would’ve been for one person to setup such a scenario. Instead, Dwight rolls through this movie very unprepared, and the gruesome, bloody scenes usually reflect this raw and real nature. I really loved a particular headshot that comes just after the last half hour begins – it looks amazing, and the sound design is incredible, as Saulnier easily and briefly represents how far away the bullet comes from. Very cool effect.
blue-ruin02Overall, this is a perfect film to me. Saulnier has created a very brutal, raw image of the revenge thriller. He takes it out of the ridiculousness of Hollywood and how big budget films treat the sub-genre. This is a spectacularly written, directed, and acted film. There’s nothing wrong here. I think this could’ve easily become generic fodder, like many of the Taken rip-offs (and also the awful Taken sequels themselves). Saulnier opted not to do anything like this. Blue Ruin is probably the best crowd funded film out there. He really put the money to great use. The cinematography makes the bleak & grim story come to life, and Macon Blair puts on a performance that should be nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Check this out. You will not be disappointed by this amazing modern revenge thriller.

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Cold Prey III is the Birth of Fear

Fritt Vilt III (English title: Cold Prey 3). 2010. Dir. Mikkel Braenne Sandemose. Screenplay by Peder Fuglerud & Lars Gudmestad; story by Martin Sundland.
Starring Ida Marie Bakkerud, Kim S. Falck-Jørgensen, Pål Stokka, Arthur Berning, Sturla Rui, Terje Ranes, and Nils Johnson. T2 Entertainment.
Not Rated. 95 minutes.
Horror

★★★★

I’m in the the tiny little column of people who loved all three of these Fritt Vilt films. One of the best slasher trilogies out there, and it’s certainly one of the best slashers in modern horror. While a lot of horror fans seem to have dismissed these movies, I champion them. If you’ve yet to read my reviews, here are Fritt Vilt and Fritt Vilt II – and certainly if you haven’t watched those yet don’t go into this one. I’m sure most people sensibly would watch the trilogy in order, but just in case, turn back, and make sure you get a look at the lead up. Though this is a prequel film, Fritt Vilt III does rely on some of our knowledge of what came before cinematically in order for us to fully realize the chronology. Even further, it cements these three movies as a really great series with a memorable killer at the center.

Fritt_Vilt_III-1This movie opens in 1976 at the mountain hotel where the original Fritt Vilt was set – we get slightly expository scenes filling in the killer’s background. His mother Sigrid and stepfather Gunnar claim he went missing, which takes us back to the very first film. It’s clear now that when we originally saw the boy running through the snow in Fritt Vilt, he may have been running from someone close to him. Gunnar does not like his wife’s son. He keeps the boy locked away in the basement. Sigrid tries her best to let the boy stay upstairs, claiming he barely gets any sunlight, but Gunnar thinks he is a freak (remember the boy’s significant birthmark across his face – of course that’s no reason to treat anyone, let alone a child, terribly like this..) and wants him kept hidden. Afterwards, we see Gunnar treating the boy worse than a dog. It’s obvious the boy was either trying to run away from home, or Gunnar might’ve been trying to kill him – we never get a full answer, which is better that way, but the strings are there to lead us on. Then, one night after a few days of the boy being missing, he returns to see his mother. The boy proceeds to kill her, as well as Gunnar. He disappears into thin air, it seems, and nobody sees any of them again.
17We also see a subplot concerning a local Sheriff named Einar, involved in the investigation into the disappearance of Sigrid, Gunnar, and the boy. Einar goes to see his brother Jon, who is clearly an outcast and living in a cabin somewhere near the national park around Jotunheimen. There is some sort of rift between them. Einar comes to question Jon about whether or not he’s seen the boy from the hotel; apparently Jon’s cabin is one of the only places between the hotel and civilization. Jon declines to say much, leading his brother to believe he’s not seen the boy. However, once Einar leaves, Jon can be seen holding up a picture of the boy with his mother and stepfather; around the edges are bloody, smudged fingerprints.
vlcsnap-426311Cut to 12 years later. 1988. A group of friends are heading into the national park near Jotunheimen in search of the area, which has apparently been taken off the map, where the hotel lies abandoned in the mountains. Einar is dropping the group off and returning the next afternoon to bring them back out from the park..
On the way, Einar runs across his brother Jon; they have an awkward, one-way conversation, and the sheriff warns his brother, who has a rifle in the back of his truck, there is no hunting within the national park. They head off on their way, and Einar drops the friends in the park. They set out and eventually find the hotel, but it’s filthy and worn down, so a few of the group would rather not stay, and instead opt to find somewhere better to camp. After this decision, they fall prey to the boy, now 12 years older and closer to being a man, who has been roaming the woods for over a decade and honing his dangerous, brutal skills.
7One of the defining things about the entire trilogy is the brutality of the kills. It doesn’t stop at the first sequel – Fritt Vilt III really keeps up the pace in terms of savagery in the slasher’s kills. The very first death in the movie is really great because it sets up part of the themes throughout the whole thing.

For instance, the first death comes as a result of a situation that could easily be an accident anyone might come across in the deep woods where people hunt and poach, if they aren’t careful anyways. Two of the characters slip into a pitfall, most likely created by the sheriff’s brother Jon; one is skewered by a pointed stick in the pit, the other gets out to try and locate help. After she leaves, the other character is left to be found by the killer – as if the fall into the pit wasn’t bad enough, the killer then viciously finishes him off. From there, we see how the killer has grown, gotten very angry, and learned a lot about hunting – mostly just the killing part. This then leads to proof Jon has been helping and sheltering the killer. When the big slasher hauls his prey back to the cabin, Jon also finds the escaped girl and brings her back – he scolds the now grown boy saying these people are “humans… not animals”. It now becomes very clear the killer’s earlier abuse took the heaviest toll possible; his humanity, any empathy or sympathy possible inside him, was taken away from him completely. He can’t distinguish man from all the other animals, or worse, he was abused into believing/knowing man to be the most dangerous animal of all. So, just like Michael Myers’ famous head-tilt in Halloween (when he pins the one teenager up against the wall dead & stands back with his head tilted to the side just like a dog while admiring his work), this scene truly cements the Fritt Vilt killer as an animal of a man.
The kills follow a pattern in that they reflect the killer’s life out in the woods, fending for himself and trying to stay alive. Obviously Jon taught him to hunt in order to survive, eat, et cetera, but because of the boy’s awful home life in his very formative years this training and experience lead to his being a serial killer, and not just an avid, experienced hunter. Instead of all knife-slashings and the like, we’re treated to bow and arrows, rifles, and just downright savagery at times. It’s pretty incredible. We go into slashers looking for this sort of thing – don’t be surprised when you’ve found it.
006-Cold_Prey_3PERkAnother thing I really love about this entry is the fact it takes most of the action from out of the shadowy corridors of the abandoned mountain hotel and the second entry’s dark hospital hallways, and it puts a lot of the scenes in a brighter, more visible landscape. This works well because the first kill itself [the pitfall scene] is shrouded in a lot of darkness. From this scene, things move outwards into the light. There’s something scarier about a slasher film when it can work in the light of day versus needing the shadows to make things tense. When a slasher has many scenes shot in the daytime, it subverts our normal image of the slasher movies we know best, and also catches us off guard – in a good way.
A couple great moments in this regards:
– I really like a few moments where we’re seeing shots of a character intercut with looks through the sight of his rifle. This provides some nice suspense; things become full of tension, as we literally look down the barrel of his gun. What makes these bits really scary is the killer lurks in the forest. Yet it’s completely light out. While the character is holding a gun, waiting for the moment to fire, we still believe the killer will get him – he doesn’t need to the darkness, he can hide in plain sight. It’s unsettling.
– My favourite scene is actually later in the film when Anders and Hedda are near a sort of cave, which sits next to a pool of water. Anders has been shot through the shoulder (when the bow and arrows make an appearance). They’re trying to rest, but the killer can be heard coming in the trees. Instead of running, Hedda hides. When the killer comes and circles Anders, just like an animal would its prey, Hedda comes out and stabs the killer – this doesn’t phase him and he keeps coming. Then Anders smashes his head with a rock. They leave the killer floating face down in the pool of water. This leads to one of my top creepy shots in the whole trilogy – the killer raises up from the water, his head down, his hood up and covering his face – he gasps hard for air making a terrible noise. It really is a great scene, which gives the characters a little win while also showing us just how much longevity the killer has, and how he is damn tough.
1I also can’t forget to the mention the cinematography here is absolutely incredible. The locations here were very well chosen. There are some abnormally beautiful shots in the film, which is very atypical of a slasher (for the most part – there are definitely some great looking visuals in slashers out there). One of my favourite parts about this final installment in the trilogy.
vlcsnap-429110I can’t help but give this third film in the series a 4 out of 5 rating.  There were issues with pacing in the beginning, but about halfway through the movie’s running time things pick up, and it really starts to cook with gas going forward.
A lot of people say the prequel by nature has a tough time keeping suspense up in terms of us wondering who will live or die because we already know, going in, the killer clearly will be around for years and years – the first Fritt Vilt is set probably almost two decades after the events of this film. So we know at the start the killer won’t be stopped. However, the movie gives us a lot of interesting insight into the killer. It helps us fill out the back story instead of leaving him as a masked and nameless slasher. This may work for a lot of movies out there – or maybe it doesn’t work, they just keep getting people to fund their useless sequels. On the other hand, Fritt Vilt creates a really excellent story, and the icing on the big cake that is that story comes with this third installment in the series. Giving us a fuller background on the killer makes the whole trilogy better, in my opinion. Not only that, Fritt Vilt III on its own really has a lot of great themes in it – man as animal, man as hunter, et cetera. The deaths are nasty, the plot is grim, and it really shows us how the killer of the series became what he was in the first Fritt Vilt. This was a great slasher and really did justice to the other films. Sadly, not many appear to agree. I couldn’t care less.
I love this, I watch it often, and I’m confident in putting the whole trilogy up as one of the best horror series’ out there while being at the top of my list when it comes to the greatest slasher trilogies ever made.
Check out the whole trilogy – have some fun!

COLD PREY II Gives Homage & Stays Brutal

This sequel to COLD PREY homages HALLOWEEN 2, though stays fresh in its own right.

Read more

Cold Prey is a Vicious Modern Slasher

Fritt Vilt (English title: Cold Prey). 2006. Dir. Roar Uthaug. Screenplay by Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland & Roar Uthaug; story by Jan Eirik Langoen & Magne Lyngner.
Starring Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, and Viktoria Winge.
Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Not Rated. 97 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Mystery

★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (DVD release)

I don’t think that Fritt Vilt a.k.a Cold Prey necessarily reinvents the wheel on slasher horror films or anything, however, I really love this, and I do think it’s one of the better offerings of modern slasher movies I’ve personally seen. Specifically post-2000. There are a few I really enjoyed, but not many since the millenium dropped. Most are a tired rehash of older films, which were far better than they’ll ever end up being.

Fritt Vilt follows a group of friends who head up into the snow covered hills of Norway to get into a good weekend of snowboarding. Deceptively simple. Once Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) hits a bad jump and breaks one of his legs fairly badly, the group are forced, with night falling plus the snow yweather getting worse, to take shelter in a strangely abandoned ski lodge in the middle of the mountains. The place seems idyllic, yet for some reason or another it is totally vacated. Not a soul is left. Or so they think.
Once the group settles in, everything seems all right for the time being. Morten Tobias is put on bed rest, laying on a couch in the lobby, and topped up with booze. The rest, including the one taking most charge Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), try to sit back and relax. One of the couples on the trip head off to a room for a more secluded and romantic getaway in the lodge. Shortly after, it becomes quite apparent to the audience, and soon enough the characters, the lodge has not been totally abandoned. There are still signs of life on the premises. To the eventual dismay of all the snowboarding friends, a terribly dangerous man is still living in the rundown mountain hotel, and he is not happy to have any guests.
The film begins giving us shots of a young boy fleeing from an unseen force behind the camera, running through snow. This is cut with his parents being asked questions by reporters, news clippings and the like; the boy’s mother and father miss him, and say he has never run away from home before like this.3253708506_977628aOnce things start going wrong for the group of friends in the lodge, it takes us back to the beginning montage, and we start to piece together clues of the killer’s identity, as well as exactly why he may be a killer in the first place. I really enjoy the whole backstory. Also, it helps there are two other films in the Fritt Vilt franchise: Fritt Vilt II, which follows directly after the events of the first, and Fritt Vilt III takes us back to the origins of the killer long before even this installment. Personally, I love all three of them. It’s one of the better slasher trilogies out there. Brutal, savage, and interesting.

Immediately, any horror movie that isolates its characters in a believable way has my attention. Not to say I end up enjoying all those films – of course not. But isolation generally equals tension, and if a filmmaker can play with that tension, build up suspense, both subvert and engage typical tropes of the genre, it really turns out to be an excellent horror film. The mountain setting in Norway here is especially awesome. The idea these friends are all going to snowboard is a normal, understandable situation. Furthermore, once Morten Tobias smashes his leg up, the setting moves to a once glorious mountain lodge. A lot of horror films, slashers in particular, tend to avoid much of a setup. In turn, that usually leaves a movie lopsided because without a setup, without legitimate reasons for why characters are in the setting they appear, or move to a different setting, then things really start to fall apart. I can’t really be truly terrified by any horror that doesn’t properly set up the premise. I can enjoy a movie, regardless of this aspect being poorly executed, but I won’t really be affected in a big way if it doesn’t come off organically. At least in part. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. I love a lot of horror that certainly is far from perfect.
Fritt Vilt does a good job of working with isolation and making it a part of why its horror comes off as natural and terrifying.  One of the reasons many people often say John Carpenter’s films, most notably The Thing, are so creepy is because he really gets into your head with the isolation and all the tension utilized in the stories he tells. This film does a good job of emulating that sort of feeling. There are a lot of ominous shots of emptiness here; hallways, snowy valleys and mountain peaks, the cold and vacant feeling of the lodge itself. It really makes me think of Halloween at times, and some of the spooky shots Carpenter achieved there were these real empty looking moments where it felt as if danger lurked everywhere. You get a lot of those same feelings here, though with a more modern look all the same. This helps the horror and shock of the film come off even more fiendish, as it almost literally comes out of nowhere.
In fact, just to mention, the sequel Fritt Vilt II is set in a hospital and has a feel quite similar to the 1981 sequel of the original Halloween. Not a bad thing in the least. I loved that one just as much as this one, if not more. Certainly doesn’t hurt they hit a lot of the same tones Rick Rosenthal did with his sequel to Carpenter’s masterpiece.
I hate comparing films to others just because it often makes it seem like I’m saying one is derivative of the other – I am absolutely not making that statement about Fritt Vilt. This great Norwegian horror movie pays homage to a couple of the greats which really paved the way for these types of modern horrors. Everything from Carpenter’s films to Tobe Hooper.
For instance, another homage-like moments is the first kill we witness. One of the girls is left alone after a small fight with her boyfriend (yes a typical trope yet one that works). There is a brief moment where she bends down to pick up a necklace she’s dropped, and just as she stands up the killer strikes. This reminds me so much of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and that first quick bit where Leatherface appears, screaming, before smashing his mallet down on the unsuspecting victim at his door – before he pulls him away and slides the metal door shut viciously. That moment really terrified me. And here, whether homage or not, I dig this moment. Kicks things into gear quickly, efficiently, and using an old horror trope we’ve all seen plenty of times before. It works well because of the situation going on at the time. Once again, I like things if they work in naturally. No matter if it’s a trope of the genre or not, a film can still be fun and exciting while also retaining some of the typical things we’re expecting to see.

Another aspect of Fritt Vilt I enjoy is the brutality. Honestly, when you go to see a slasher, what drives you? You’re not going to see the drama of the people being hunted by the killer. Ultimately, regardless of whatever it is about movies in general you love, when you’re watching a slasher horror you are watching because there is something inside you wanting to see the people (a.k.a victims) murdered. Not saying we’re sick. Who knows – maybe we are?
What I’m saying is the point of a slasher is the violence. Therefore, the hallmark of any true, great slasher is brutality.
First and foremost on the top of the list, you absolutely have both Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees as top dogs in the brutality department. While Freddy Krueger is certainly up there in the big shots list, his kills are more wild, I would say. Jason and Michael each kill a lot of times with their bare hands, or wielding a knife or machete respectively. Their kills are more upclose and personal. The brutality is a lot more present in their murders.
That’s where the killer in Fritt Vilt really excels. The sheer brute force of the man is absolutely unbelievable. He is a scary, scary character. Though we do get bits of his origin story, there’s still enough mystery left around him to make things thrilling. His face is almost fully shrouded the entire film. It is really unsettling to watch his devilish grin behind the ski-mask getup he wears. He looks the part, that is for sure. That’s another thing – as a slasher, he’s a very great and realistic character. Yes, there are horror tropes involved with him, too. But you can’t deny this guy is a terrifying fellow. He is savage. His kills are just full of pure hatred.
One wonderful addition to the slasher genre and certainly one of the best slasher characters in the post-2000 horror landscape.
cold_6Strong female leads in horror are excellent. I’m not talking about the waif-like girl with big breasts who ends up as the “Final Girl” when things come to an end. I’m talking about kick ass women who take charge of a situation, whether it’s fighting off a bad guy, or just helping a friend mend his broken leg for the time being. Jannicke, played by the talented Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, is one of the latter types. She’s not only tough, but also a great friend, as she refuses to leave friends behind, and instead opts to face the killer and all his horror. She doesn’t run around, flailing about, and just so happens to end up in the right place at the right time by the film’s close – she actively fights back. This is why Fritt Vilt isn’t the same as all the other slasher films out there. Sure, it isn’t the first, or the last, to use the strong female lead as a subversion of the genre. That being said, it is definitely one of the better ones in the genre, and absolutely one of the greatest modern horrors to do so.

The film itself is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I can’t praise this Norwegian horror enough to make you realize how excellent of a movie you’ll be getting yourself into if you choose to watch. I recommend you do. There are some great kills, a bit of suspenseful and tense drama, and a really great lead character who doesn’t fall into the typical trappings of a female lead in many slasher movies. Plus, you get a nice few bloody moments that are more than worth it.

This film’s DVD released by Anchor Bay Entertainment really hits the mark. Not only is there good stuff like an Alternate Ending and a featurette called “Behind Cold Prey“, as well as a very cool look at the visual and audio effects in the film (everything from sound design to colour grading), the best feature of the DVD is the inclusion of a couple short films: a 2-minute short called Mountain Rose Runs Amok (a sort of spoof making fun of their own film) and An Evening in the Green (an early film made by the director; at home in his parents’ backyard). The second is absolutely hilarious and gory – you can tell he had an early knack for horror. I always love seeing things like these included. It doesn’t all have to be behind-the-scenes and movie magic stuff – you can have fun with the features. These are a great addition to an already excellent DVD release. I recommend anyone who is a fan of Fritt Vilt to pick this up – I’ll be getting a Blu ray soon, as I’d love to see the horror and terror of this film in amazing quality. Excellent slasher and a great release, as well.

Check out my review for the sequel Fritt Vilt II.