1.08.2010

Cold Prey (2006): Norway’s Take on 90’s Horror Done Right




Scandinavians seem to have a penchant for rock music and extreme sports…as well as formulaic slashers, but who’s complaining?

Although Cold Prey feels like it could have been made in the late 90’s, in the vein of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend, its likeable characters, suspenseful moments, and awesome location make me forget all about the trite slashers stateside. When a group of friends hit the mountain for some snowboarding action, one of them accidentally breaks his leg. With dark approaching and the weather worsening, they seek refuge in an abandoned hotel until morning. The setup works quite well. Not only do we have a character who is handicapped from the beginning, but we have a location that can become just as much the enemy as the unknown figure stalking them. The remoteness of the mountain-top hotel ensures that there will be no reception for cell phones and that running for help in the open snow is futile.

Snow-eating grins...har har

What makes Cold Prey enjoyable is not a high death count, gore, or even action. The characters are what had me engaged throughout the first and second acts, which are somewhat uneventful in terms of horror. The Final Girl’s relationship with her boyfriend seems quite real—not perfect, but not “on the rocks.” Even the sexed up characters that make out the entire time are more than a gratuitous ticket for nudity. The obligatory sex scene is cut short, because the girl who has appeared to be going for it throughout the film wants to take it slow with her new boyfriend. The Final Girl and her boyfriend are the only ones who have sex, and it’s offscreen, so we can’t count on the normal slasher rules to guide us through the film. The chap with the broken leg is also quite likeable, cracking jokes in the midst of a lot of pain. What is also appreciated regarding the characters is their general sense of intelligence. When they enter the abandoned hotel, they don’t immediately start smashing things and fornicating in the dark rooms. They are actually…dare I say it…somewhat responsible, trying to be safe and careful with their surroundings. When the horror action occurs, their smarts don’t dwindle. It was refreshing to see enjoyable, mature 20-somethings for once.

At least she didn't have to choose between 
the flashlight and the gun...
Yes Doom, I'm talking to you


Towards the end of the second act, the real action starts up. The tools the filmmakers had already used set up the suspense well enough that I was fearing for the characters wholeheartedly. The editing and ramped up style of the kill scenes were somewhat distracting. With a more traditional approach, especially since the EFX makeup was nothing impressive, the horror elements of Cold Prey would have been so much better. My fondness for the characters was leading me through, having me worried for them despite some clunky cinematography. What also helped was the appearance of the perpetrator. Cloaked in a heavy fur coat and snow mask, the massive body of the killer was intimidating…even if it did look a little like the getup from Urban Legend. The hulk of a human stalking them in the sterile white landscape sold the film on its own, as the feeling of entrapment was suffocating.

Ever hear the urban legend about the Norwegian kids who go snowboarding on an isolated mountain,
only to find themselves trapped in an abandonned hotel, where a masked figure stalks them one by one?
Yeah...me neither.


Cold Prey really soars in the third act, as it builds to a powerful climax. There are plenty of clever set pieces, intense moments, and kick-ass struggles. I was rooting for the characters the entire way and when one of them died, I was genuinely upset about it. While I wasn’t too keen on the big reveal in the end—which was hardly a reveal by the way, I still found Cold Prey to be unique enough to stand on its own, even if it may be waist-deep in the fallout of modern American slashers.

10 comments:

  1. I, too, thought it was the characters that totally drove this into likeable territory.

    My main complaint was the overbearing music.

    I enjoyed the icy mountain photography, though.
    Pretty solid for the most part, but mostly because I actually didn't want the kids to get killed.

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  2. OMG, a slasher w/o douchey teens AND you actually care about the characters?

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  3. I loved Cold Prey. It was on my list of faves for the year on my blog. Great movie to watch when you're stuck inside during a snowstorm...like I am this weekend;)
    Super review.

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  4. I found this one to be extremely boring at first, but when I finally eased into the latter half, I enjoyed it. It's certainly a cut above other slasher flicks in terms of class. Also, snowy horror movies are a big 'plus' in my book. I hear COLD PREY 2 is supposed to be reeeeally frickin' good!

    oh, and welcome back!!

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  5. You are spot on with this review. "Cold Prey" was a wonderful breath of fresh (and cold) air. I expected nothing and was blown away by how enjoyable it was. Good review.

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  6. Love this movie and love this review!

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  7. ...soundtrack provided by Coldplay?

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  8. Nice thanks for the heads up on this one Becks, hadnt heard of it before! Just hope it doesnt end up anything like Dead in 3 Days or Ill be back for your head lol..

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  9. @Chris: The score definitely left more (or should I say less) to be desired.

    @Planet of Terror: I hope you were sitting down when you read this review!!!

    @C.L.: True story. I like snow storms and if I remember correctly, so do you.

    @Lee and kindertrauma: Thanks for stopping buy guys!

    @J. Astro: Thanks for the welcome back. I'm excited about Cold Prey 2 as well.

    @JLG: Think more in the vein of Trapt. Coldplay is weak sauce. :P

    @Carl: I thought this was much better than Dead in 3 days. Not as similar to IKWYDLS.

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  10. Now that I finally got round to watch both parts of this, I have to say that as unimpressed the generic feel of the poster artwork left me, as positively the movie hiding behind this bland image surprised me. It’s not that the movies add anything much new, but they come with a class that I sorely miss from other entries to the genre lately.
    Finding amidst all the post Scream crud movies that actually take time to introduce their characters and allow us to connect with them, to care for them, before the killing starts, is a highly welcome change from what has become the norm.

    Even if the second movie appears, in typical sequel tradition, somewhat minor to the first, both stand out from the mass. The originality of these movies lies after all with fact that unlike with its brethren, we see real people, people we can care for. I got so used to root for the killer to get rid of those annoying brat actors that mime the victims, that it came as a shock in itself when I realised that I did not anticipate, but rather dread the next kill.

    Survival horror movies in which you actually want the protagonists to survive, how novel is that!

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