Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Last Winter

(Larry Fessenden, US, 2006)

A decent, spooky, supernatural eco-thriller. Fessenden has a keen eye and a knack for suspense, and the film's greatest asset is its atmosphere of gradually mounting dread. Unfortunately, there isn't as much care given to the characters, who are typically (for the genre) pretty thin, prone to utterances that range from passable to obvious to seriously clunky. This is frustrating, because Fessenden seems to be one of the only American filmmakers interested in the unrealized potential of thriller/horror as a genre - the problem being he only goes so far. The ecological slant is relevant without being too heavy-handed, and the Arctic setting is mined for all sorts of nifty freakiness, but it doesn't end up having the gravity that it could. It feels like a near-miss; Fessenden's fusion of the familiar thrills-and-chills with an elegaic sense of impending doom is provocative but not fully realized. In any case, it's a fun film to watch, even if it repeatedly reminds you of how it could be better. Perhaps a great, genre-busting masterpiece is in the works - doubtful, but I wouldn't put it past ol' Larry. Bonus points for the creature effects - a little obviously low-fi, but they're also original and genuinely scary.

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