Saturday, July 16, 2011

Final Girl Film Club - Cold Prey trilogy

Cody takes a look at the Cold Prey (Fritt vilt) Norwegian slasher trilogy for the Final Girl Film Club.

COLD PREY (2006)

The film begins with a short prologue focusing on a young boy who went missing at a mountain lodge, his snowy demise followed by news reports of the many people who go missing in the Norwegian mountains.

When we make the jump to present day, we join a group of friends who are on a road trip to the mountains to go snowboarding. It's a standard slasher assemblage of characters, in fact the character types at first seem to be lifted right out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake - there's the couple who are into excessive PDA, the dateless guy who cracks jokes about the others, the driver and his girlfriend, who's instantly the obvious final girl because she gets to ride in the front seat and has a deeper subplot of relationship issues. She soon turns out to be very capable at setting compound fractures and fixing flesh wounds (with super glue).

There's also a bit of unexpected product placement in the car scene. It just stood out to me, seeing a guy in a Norwegian slasher taking a swig from a Burger King cup.

The quintet arrives at their mountainous destination and get to snowboarding, but their fun is soon cut short when dateless guy wipes out and breaks a leg. So far from civilization, and of course unable to get cell phone signals, the characters' choices are limited. Their injured friend needs shelter... and the closest place is an abandoned lodge. A lodge that was glimpsed in the prologue and has been closed since 1975.

The characters set up house in the hotel, hang out, deal with personal issues, and look around, eventually coming across evidence that someone may be living in there. As so often happens, this squatter turns out to be a psycho killer, in this case a guy who likes to whack his victims with a pick axe and dump their bodies into an icy crevice.

On first viewing, the killer felt kind of lazy to me. It seemed like he was letting people hang out in his place and wander around too much without letting his presence be known to the audience, making for a lack of stalkery tension and long stretches of nothing much going on. But while letting the movie play through a second time during the writing of this article, the pacing is working better for me. So obviously the movie works for rewatching. Still, when the killer just stands in front of two characters and lets them have a conversation about which one will escape, he's being pretty lackadaisical about his slashing duties. This also shows in none of the kills being particularly impressive.

It's a decent flick though, and my enjoyment might also have been lowered at first by the fact that I was watching a dubbed version rather than my foreign film preference of subtitles. It doesn't reach the slasher subgenre's '80s heights, but I would say it's on the same level as some of the better modern direct-to-video slasher offerings (it reminded me of a 2003 movie called Shredder, which I actually don't remember well enough to say if it was one of the better ones). It must've done something right, because the good word spread worldwide and a sequel followed soon after.



The sequel is essentially a remake of Halloween II (1981). It starts right where the first movie ended and is mostly set in a dark, empty hospital. In this one, the filmmakers give a reason for the lack of people in the hospital by telling us that the place will soon be closing down.

A police officer gets a call saying that an abandoned car has been found at the base of a mountain, and when he goes to check it out viewers should recognize it as the car the characters from the first film were riding in. And if seeing the exterior of the car isn't enough to jog memories, the discarded Burger King cup inside of it gets a close-up. Apparently I wasn't the only person who that cup stood out for. Or it's just there for product placement purposes.

Driving away from the car, the officer nearly hits Jannicke, the final girl from the first movie, standing in the middle of the lane and holding a pick axe. He takes her to the closing hospital, where his girlfriend works as a nurse and becomes the film's secondary heroine.

Jannicke's story sends the police up the mountain to retrieve the bodies of her friends (the actors from the first film were kind enough to cameo as corpses) and the killer. Though the killer lies dead in the morgue, we know he'll soon be alive again, much like Jason in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or Michael Myers at the end of Halloween: Resurrection. When he does revive, a doctor guesses that he was just pronounced dead because hypothermia had lowered his heart rate to 10 - 20 beats per minute. But as a cop does some investigating elsewhere, we find out more about the killer's history - he was a strange kid, and this wasn't the first time he's been dead. He was stillborn and dead for four hours before his heart started beating.

This bit of background adds to the killer's slasher credentials, and he lives up to it. He's more of a badass in this one, gets to perform some better kills and rack up a slightly bigger bodycount.

This film does contain one of my pet peeves, when some screen time is taken up by a dream sequence culminating in a jump scare wake-up. Sequels do this often, some of the more egregious examples in my mind being Scream 3, Hostel: Part II, and the epically long hospital nightmare in Rob Zombie's Halloween II. I'm not a fan of dream scares in general, and the more "real world" a movie is, the less I want to see dreams. It just seems weird to be inside a character's subconscious. Leave the nightmares to Elm Street movies.

Aside from that, I was more entertained by the sequel than the first movie. The slasher was better, and the heroine also stepped it up in a cool way. In one great moment, Jannicke has been reluctantly locked inside a police car with a young officer while a team of cops go inside the hospital and get wiped out by the killer. As the young officer gets jittery and scared, an exasperated Jannicke tells him, "Let me out and we'll go in together, OK?" 

By the end of part 2, I was ready to follow this slasher through a long series of sequels as he hacks his way through Norway... And then the ending comes, and a blow is delivered that I'm not sure this guy can get up from. Cold Prey filmmakers, this is no way to treat your slasher so early in his franchise, you need to hold off on something like this until he's reached a Jason Goes to Hell/Jason X number of sequels, when even if he is blown to pieces or loses his head, the audience knows he'll still find a loophole to come back.

But since they take the killer out like they do, the third film is not a sequel, it's a prequel.


The prequel begins in 1976, showing us more details about the killer's disappearance as a child. I thought part 1 told me this event happened in 1975, but we are overcoming language barriers here so maybe I mistook something. Early in the film, we are assured that two characters who appeared to deserve some comeuppance at the end of part 1 did indeed get their comeuppance.

We find out that the killer had two uncles, one a cop and the other a creepy hermit. The hermit lives in a house in the woods near the old lodge, and it was this uncle who, unbeknownst to the cop uncle and the rest of the world, took in his nephew after his disappearance.

The story then jumps 12 years, Kim Wilde's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" playing on the soundtrack to welcome us to 1988. The cop is giving a group of six young friends on a camping trip - two couples, a jokester, and guy named Simen, which is pronounced in an amusing way - a ride into the woods, passing his hermit brother on the side of the road along the way. A girl named Siri, played by a super cute actress named Julie Rusti, seems to be setting herself up to be the final girl by giving the creepy uncle an untrusting look, and furthermore by going against her friends' plans when she refuses to stay in the abandoned lodge. The previous two films were set in a snowy winter, the prequel is set in warmer weather, allowing the characters to camp out in the woods and skinnydip in a picturesque lake. While sitting around the campfire, Simen offers to share a couple Whoppers with the others.

Walking in the woods that night, Siri and her boyfriend fall into a pit trap, the boyfriend ending up impaled on a sharpened stick. Siri manages to climb out of the pit and is picked up by the creepy uncle on the road, while the killer takes her boyfriend back home and finishes him off. The uncle is highly disturbed that his nephew has moved on up from killing animals to humans, but is happy to keep Siri as his own captive.

Finding their friends missing in the morning, the rest of the campers go looking for them in the woods. This doesn't go well for them, but skinnydipper Hedda does present herself as a possible alternate final girl.

Cold Prey 3 is a much different style of movie than the previous two. I said the first Cold Prey didn't reach the heights of '80s slashers, this one literally made itself an '80s slasher with the period setting, aiming to be one of the Friday the 13th/Just Before Dawn/The Final Terror/etc. wilderness variety. It kind of feels like a Norwegian Wrong Turn.

The story and set-up was interesting, the amount of time spent with the characters wandering in the woods didn't hold my attention so much. It's not bad, but this was my least favorite of the trilogy and I'm left with not much to say about it.

Overall, it's a solid trilogy and I would definitely like to see the series continue. Find a way to overcome the ending of part 2 and bring the killer back for a Cold Prey 4.

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  1. I only skimmed your review of 2 and 3 to avoid spoilers, but I'm excited to see you thought they were worthwhile! I'd appreciate so much if you'd comment on my review and help me decide the best way to see them.

  2. You're right about the 1975/1976 thing: I watched both with subs and noticed the same 'change'.

    Gotta say all three films are well above average for the genre. I only say #3 last night but was far more impressed than I was led to believe I would be.

  3. I love the trilogy, but I'm a bit let down by the third. Yeah, as a backwoods, it was pretty decent, but really?...A backwoods slasher?

    Okay, for once, yes. I want another Cold Prey Movie, and I want it done right.