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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.
★★★★★ (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.Once 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.
Strong 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.
Feed the Gods. 2014. Dir. Braden Croft.
Starring Shawn Roberts, Emily Tennant, Britt Irvin, Tyler Johnston, and Aleks Paunovic. Compound B.
Unrated. 84 minutes.
There are times I’ll admit I am fooled by an interesting title. When I first heard of Feed the Gods I’ve got to say, I was absolutely hooked. Just by the title alone. So I waited, and finally it came to VOD. I wasn’t particularly aware this film had anything to do with Bigfoot, or a Bigfoot type legendary creature, until the poster art showed up. Maybe I’m not in the loop (I know I’m not in the loop – that’s called a joke), but going by the description I basically imagined a sort of strange backwoods cult. It made me think of something similar to Jug Face, which is a great modern backwoods horror. However, this is nothing like that great film. Unfortunately, I can’t really say much positive about Feed the Gods.
The premise of the film isn’t a bad one. Two brothers, who don’t really like one another, decide to seek out their birth parents after the death of their adopted mother. It brings them to a mountain-woods town. The locals are a bit strange, a bit quirky. And also there’s the running legend about a Bigfoot creature in the forest. They call it The Wild Man. The Wild Man takes people, they say. Not a bad setup.
I’m not really saying the plot isn’t great because I was really intrigued by what might happen. It’s just that there wasn’t any fear.
Usually Bigfoot freaks me out. Some recent sasquatch centric movies I’ve enjoyed and found creepy are Willow Creek, and most recently the brilliantly executed Exists by found footage master Eduardo Sanchez. Feed the Gods aims to be a really unique movie in the Bigfoot filmography, but fails.
The acting wasn’t awful, at least not to a point where I cringed; though one or two times at the beginning I did wince slightly. Regardless, a few times I actually chuckled at a bit of the humour weaved in. The biggest problem Feed the Gods suffers from is a lack of any real dread, no suspense or tension. They aim to give that backwoods feeling of terror. The town in which the main characters end up almost has a feeling similar to when the boys first show up in Deliverance to try and find someone to drive their vehicle; they wander into such a funny yet creepy, eerie place with the kid and his banjo. I almost expected a scene close to it, but they didn’t go too hamfisted here. Yet there wasn’t enough of anything.
Feed the Gods is a confused film a lot of its running time. There are points, as I said, where I did laugh, but those were essentially in part because of one of the brothers who worked as comic relief. Even at the end, I didn’t expect it to end. Things came to a close so abruptly. I felt like there was going to be a bit more resolution. Not because I need it – I love when a film, horror especially, can leave things either ambiguous or just plain depressing even – but because it felt as if the film was moving towards some resolution. I’m not saying it’s meant to be a good one. The finale really blew things.
On that note, I did not dig the monster in this film. Near the end there’s a really bad shot. Kudos to the filmmakers for going with their own sort of unique look. Wasn’t my thing. I didn’t find it too frightening, at all. That also had to do with the entire film. A sense of dread and fear comes along with a sasquatch type creature lurking in the woods. Unfortunately for Feed the Gods, and me I guess, I did not have that at all here. So when there’s some real screen time for this creature it just didn’t affect me much. As opposed to a film like Sanchez’s Exists, which in my opinion had one of the best Bigfoots on film. Period. This film did right by not going for too many shots of the creature head-on, however, when they do go for it the creature only disappoints.
All in all this is just a rough film. I respect trying to take a new look at the whole Bigfoot idea, and sort of zooming in on a more local legend aspect, but this does not work. The writing isn’t especially good. Not that I’d consider it horrible – I love the story itself. The plot wound up coming across boring when it could’ve been so much more with increased suspense and tension. The acting isn’t awful. It’s wooden, though, and this helps nothing. I did enjoy the older brother, played by Shawn Roberts; he was funny at times, others he was believable. Most of the other characters were either overplayed or just poorly done. He seemed like the only one with an actual personality.
Also, another little thing I didn’t like was the trailer – it is badly cut. I know the difference because I’ve watched the film, but I know a couple people already who’ve mentioned to me they assumed the three main characters were brothers and sister. That’s because the trailer is cut in the beginning with a line from Will (Roberts) stating “we want to go find mom and dad”, or something similar. There’s nothing else in the trailer to indicate the girl of the trio is not a relative; she’s in fact the girlfriend of Will’s younger brother. Nothing to get upset over. You discover quick enough once turning on the film they’re in a relationship together. This is an instance of pure laziness. Careless and sloppy to have a shoddy trailer, which has clearly confused more than a couple people after starting to watch this. It doesn’t ruin anything, but it sort of makes you wonder why they’d cut a trailer that way. The least they could’ve done is make sure the trailer was tight. Because the writing isn’t, and it falls apart basically after the premise gets into place.
I can only give this 1.5 stars out of 5.
I don’t mean to hate on the film. Like I mentioned, I really loved the whole setup. There was a lot of promise in the story for the film, but unfortunately this didn’t extend into the plot and any of the rest of the film. You can’t even really call this a horror, as far as I’m concerned. I would mostly throw this into the category of a dark thriller.
I always try to give Bigfoot movies some breathing room, so to speak, because it isn’t easy to effectively do one right. I can’t extend much courtesy to Feed the Gods. It really let me down in the end. I didn’t even initially realize this was a film concerning Bigfoot. Once I realized it was, though, I got excited. Recently I saw Late Phases, which really came off as a great modern werewolf horror, and as far as werewolves go it’s hard for me to find a movie with their kind in it I really love; I loved that one, and it really did good for the genre in a fresh way. I hoped then that Feed the Gods might be capable of doing the same sort of thing with Bigfoot. I hoped in vain. That being said, I would like to see Braden Croft write and direct another feature because he has great ideas floating around.
Check this out if you have some time to kill, but don’t expect much, and don’t waste your money if there’s something else looking more promising in the VOD queue.