Monday, February 24, 2014

Le Village Des Ombres: The Less-Than-Shocking Truth

I go on and on and on a lot about the need for coherence and clarity in storytelling, and a lot of my complaints lately over the last couple of months have been centered on movies that seem to cobble together set-pieces or imagery intended to frighten without really providing a reason for why they're there or why they happen the way they do, as if just assembling a bunch of scary stuff automatically makes something a horror movie and justifies its existence.

(Of course, when these movies do decent enough business to justify their existence to the people who bankrolled it, well, that's sort of depressing to me. Not so much from the money end - money wants more money and makes decisions that it thinks will bring it more money. Business is a necessary evil of art if you want that art to have an audience or make a living for the artist. No, what bums me out is that there's enough of an audience with low enough standards for those movies to do the business they do. "You'll like it if you're a fan of that sort of thing" is some bullshit.)

But I'm not here to spend the entire post on an exhortation to higher standards. I'm not even here to talk about the need for more coherent horror movies, because Le Village Des Ombres (The Village of Shadows) is, much to its credit, clear and coherent in the story it's trying to tell. Unfortunately, it also serves as a lesson in the insufficiency of a clear story - without intensity, without surprise, even the most elegant storytelling falls flat.

The film opens on a flashback to World War II, and a group of Nazi soldiers is stuck in a house in a small French village and some weird shit is going on. It's hard to tell what's happening, but some of the soldiers have died, and there's some mysterious force behind a door, and there's some shooting, and then all of the soldiers are dead. It's not the most promising opening, in my opinion, because as a flashback all it tells us is that something bad happened in this village a long time ago, and since this is nominally a horror movie titled The Village of Shadows, that's sort of a given. Flashbacks work best when they offer information that seems like it communicates one thing only to mean something else entirely in context, or to pique interest by showing us something that doesn't quite make sense, and is revealed gradually. This flashback doesn't do either. It says "a bad thing happened a long time ago" which, no shit. 

So World War II, dead Nazis, something spooky. Flash forward 60 years or so to two carloads of young adults on a road trip (I am starting to get sick of people on a road trip) to a summer home in a small French village. Dun-dun-DUNNNNNNN! (Yeah, that seems a little cheap, but that's sort of what the music in this movie does - it's almost entirely ominous, minor-key strings slathered over every fucking scene, sometimes to the point of being distracting.) There's, like, nine people in the two cars, and we don't really get a strong sense of who all of them are. There's bookish Mathias, Lucas, to whose family home they are traveling, Hugo, his girlfriend Marion, Marion's sister Emma, headstrong David, David's spooky girlfriend Lila, and Bastien and Juliette, whose chief defining characteristic seems to be that they're the goofy young horny couple. By and large, they're just sort of there in the beginning. 

It's not a promising start, but after a little back-and-forth by the protagonists (and some hilariously awful funk/rap by…Bastien, I think), things start getting pleasingly weird. The car driven by Hugo pulls ahead of the car driven by David, even though Hugo doesn't know where they're going, and then mere minutes later, David has to bring his car to a screeching halt when he almost runs into Hugo's car, sitting deserted at the side of the road, doors hanging open. It's nicely disorienting because we don't see what happens to the people in Hugo's car and it's too short a time since they passed for everything to be so deserted. Needless to say, David, Emma, Lucas, Mathias, and Lila get out and try to track their missing friends, their search leading them to the village of Ruiflec - the very village they were trying to reach to begin with. 

Naturally, it's the village from the flashback.

After coming on a little too strong in the beginning, the movie settles into a more self-assured groove with the arrival of our protagonists in the titular village. It becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly that something is not right in this place - the village is deserted, and there are cryptic drawings scattered everywhere. It occurs to the protagonists that none of them really know Lucas all that well, and it was his idea to come here. The discovery of Marion - one of the passengers in the other car - makes things even more confusing, as she talks like they've been there for hours when they just found her minutes after entering the village. Time and space, they discover, are out of joint here - leaving the village proves to be impossible as paths lead back to their beginning, ways out return them to the house. The cryptic drawings become prophetic, and people begin disappearing one by one. Something is stalking them. All of this is intercut with scenes of Emma, elsewhere, getting some unspecified bad news, and one side of a conversation with an unknown man in a car. It's not clear if these cutaways are related or where they occur in time, but restraint makes them less confusing and more curious - their reveals are paced well enough to deepen the mystery surrounding these people, rather than distracting from it.

In fact, one of the biggest strengths of Le Village Des Ombres is its pacing. It's not a sudden-scares kind of movie. It gradually drip-feeds information to the audience - weird occurrences, flashbacks, misdirection - at a rate fast enough to keep us guessing, but slowly enough that we spend a long time wondering what it all means. Why can't they leave? Why do the drawings depict events that happened seconds before the drawing was discovered? What happened between Emma & Marion? Who is the dude in the car? What's with the weird ledger in the town hall? Why is the library filled with copies of a single book? Everything coheres in the end, but it takes its sweet time getting there, answers inevitably leading to more questions until the very end. That's a good thing. 

All of this makes the film's shortcomings stand out in stark relief. This is a really dark movie (if you couldn't guess from the title). Not thematically dark, actually, cinematographically dark, and this makes it a little difficult to really set up as much of a mood as it could. Being dark isn't the same thing as being spooky, and the different flashbacks (of which there are more than a few, all executed more deftly and effectively than the opening) utilize different cinematographic approaches to create different moods. This suggests that they could have handled the present-day stuff in a defter manner as well. Several key moments feel muddled and confused, simply because it's hard to see what's actually happening.

These same undermining tendencies extend to the narrative as well. Although the overarching mystery of the story is kept going for a good long while, and doesn't leave any loose ends, some of the reveals along the way feel like they should have had more impact or have been more startling than they were. That the film takes its time is good and effective, but for the time that it took to set up some pieces of the story, you feel like they should mean more or inspire stronger feelings in us than they do in the end, and you sort of wonder if some parts of the story couldn't have been better communicated through dialogue instead of flashback, so we'd know what we need to know about the character without being lead to believe that we're going to be let in on some earthshaking secret. What's supposed to be shocking or horrifying, as a result, sometimes feels a little pedestrian instead. And for all the right pacing choices made throughout, the film's ending feels a little abrupt and obvious, in part because we've been lead to expect something far stranger than what we get, but also because the sense of restraint the rest of the movie has abandons it in the conclusion. The point is made, the story is over, but the movie keeps going. The end isn't really a surprise because it was all spelled out pretty clearly in the final act, but then instead of ending on the important revelation (one with more emotional freight than anything else in the film) it continues to a scene that resolves some of what we've seen in flashback, only doing so to make the pretty-obvious implications of the conclusion even more explicit without really extending or elaborating on them. It over-explains what was already a pretty clear-cut ending.

I wish it had been a stronger effort, because it does do something a lot of the movies I've watched lately fail to do - it has a specific premise, with a clear through-line on the story, and everything we see serves that story. There aren't any scary bits tacked on without regard for the narrative and internal logic, everything seems planned out and the product of a specific set of events, and what at first seem like narrative interruptions or detours do serve a purpose - the structure of this film is tight and solid, but it doesn't have quite the intensity, emotional punch or sense of profound surprise in its twists and reveals that it needs to be really good. It's not dull, just…ultimately nothing new, and there are just enough glimpses of something better to make that a disappointment. It's exactly the kind of movie that's likely to get one of those "you'll like it if you're a fan of that sort of movie" endorsements, with all that implies.

Unavailable on Amazon Instant Video
Unavailable on Netflix Instant 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sweeney Todd: Addendum

So apparently, some enterprising soul has put the 1982 TV production of Sweeney Todd up on YouTube in 27 parts. This is by no means the ideal way to view this (or to view anything, really), but given that it's not available on streaming services and even the DVD is sort of a pain in the ass to obtain, I'm posting the link to the first part for your consideration. If you wish to watch the rest, you should be able to find it from this entry on YouTube.

Attend the tale.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sweeney Todd: There's No Place Like London

All jokes about Andrew Lloyd Webber aside, musical theater doesn't figure very heavily into discussions of horror. Comedy, drama, entertainment spectacle? Sure. But not horror. Bursting into song? Not very scary (again, all jokes about Andrew Lloyd Webber aside). But I'll be damned if Sweeney Todd isn't one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

Now, I'm not talking about the overblown Tim Burton version, which ends up being yet another exercise in taking an Edward Gorey aesthetic and blowing it up to Tex Avery proportions while simultaneously losing all of the charm or strangeness either of those things would usually promise. No, that one's cartoonishly ghoulish, even for all of its pretensions of being "dark", it's largely toothless compared to this one. I'm talking about a 1982 television production of the version that debuted on Broadway in 1979. It's merciless, bleak, and unsparing, feverish and apocalyptic.

In the opening song, we are told to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd," and it's one hell of a tale: A respectable London barber named Benjamin Barker had his life ruined by a corrupt judge who had taken a shine to his wife. Barker was sentenced to transportation on trumped-up charges, his wife poisoned herself in grief and shame after the judge raped her , and his daughter - now for all purposes an orphan - was adopted by the very judge who put the whole thing into motion.

Flash forward 15 years, to 1846, as a ship is pulling into the London dockyards, carrying Barker (now going by the name Sweeney Todd) and the sailor who rescued Todd from the wreckage of the boat he used to escape the penal colony. This sailor - Anthony - knows nothing of Todd's past, and Todd is happy to keep it that way. They have both returned home after being a long time gone.

London has changed much in the 15 years Todd has been away, and the first place he returns to is the site of his old barber shop on Fleet Street. It's vacant, upstairs from a struggling pie shop run by the hapless Mrs. Lovett. Todd wishes to rent it and begin to plot his revenge against the judge who destroyed him, but where to start? Well, Mrs. Lovett can help him there, she knows all about the sad story of Benjamin Barker and knows exactly who Todd is. She points him in the right direction, and - his beloved heirloom razors in hand, kept safe all these years under the floorboards of his shop - he begins the deadly work of murdering everyone complicit in the ruin of his life. But murder is a complicated thing - once you've cut a throat, what do you do with the body? They're big, hard to hide, hard to get rid of. And there are going to be a lot of bodies before Todd's work is done.

Ah, there again, Mrs. Lovett has an idea. More to the point, she has a meat grinder and an oven. And, "with the price of meat what it is/when you get it/(if you get it)," well, they come to an arrangement. Todd murders the guilty, and Mrs. Lovett feeds them to the rest of London in her meat pies.

Keep in mind, this is just the setup, the work of the first act. Nothing is simple, everything is complicated. Todd's daughter Johanna is a fine-looking young woman now, and sailor Anthony happens to make her acquaintance and a love story blooms, much to the dismay of the judge, who has been waiting patiently for Johanna to reach her majority for reasons I don't think I need to outline here (they aren't good reasons). Getting to the judge isn't the easiest of tasks, and for Todd, anyone who gets between him and his revenge needs to go. It is an ugly, avaricious, grasping, corrupt world, as Todd sings "there's a hole in the world like a great black pit/and the vermin of the world inhabit it/and it's morals aren't worth what a pig would spit/and it goes by the name of London" his contempt is palpable. The real meat (haha) of the story is the second act, when wheels are put into motion, and like the clockwork of the age, wheels turn other wheels which turn other wheels and the tragedy of Sweeney Todd is put into motion.

Put simply, this isn't what I think most people think of when musical theater comes to mind. It is pitch black, unsparing in its themes, and the presentation follows. Setting is everything - it's a spare stage, made up mostly of metal scaffolding and framework marked by incidental props and furniture used to establish settings - it's the metal skeleton of London laid bare, the bones of the beast that was the Second Industrial Revolution, with a backdrop consisting of crammed buildings and smog as far as the eye can see. The action is punctuated by shrill, keening steam whistles that set the audience on edge and suggest the hysterical madness seething below the surface of this society - this is the age of soot and grime and steam and factories and child labor and grinding tenement poverty and everyone is just on this side of completely losing it. The score, the movements and voices of the actors, all of it suggests a churning madness just barely kept in check, and the steam whistles are nothing so much as screams.

The costuming contributes to the atmosphere as well - this is a videotape of a staged production, so everyone is made up for the stage. As a result, everyone has a stark, ghastly pallor marked by heavy age lines. On stage, it looks more or less normal, but from our perspective, on tape, it looks heavily expressionistic, closer to something like The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. This complements the setting nicely - everyone here is a ghoul, almost nobody is innocent (except for Anthony and Johanna, and they contrast so sharply with their surroundings it almost hurts), and this is a London where everyone is climbing all over everyone else trying to get what they can, when they can. Blackmail, bribery, murder, the casual abuse of the mentally ill, prostitution, everyone feeds on everyone else. That the cannibalism is literal as well as metaphorical is pretty much just a formality, it's predators all the way down.

As with the staging and dressing, the performances are stronger and broader than we're used to in film - they have to be for the stage, they're playing to the back row. This broadness underscores the outsized Grand Guignol aesthetic, and the title character radiates hate and menace anytime he's on stage. In some ways, it feels like we've stepped into the world of a silent film, only now everyone can talk and it's in color, while still being just as expressionistic.  The end result seethes and writhes, like swarms of rats as they hurry to abandon the sinking ship of London. Earlier I referred to the production as apocalyptic, and a strong feeling of impending doom runs throughout - there's a repeated refrain of "city on fire!" that underscores the idea that everything is falling apart, and Todd's monstrosity (as well as that of the judge and others) are just symptoms of a larger disease.

What little relief we get comes either in the form of Anthony and Johanna singing to each other and making plans to run away together (which is small relief because they are so good, so innocent, that we can't help but think that London is going to eat them alive) or the black humor of Todd and Lovett - their duet "A Little Priest" consists of all kinds of awful puns based on the type of people who end up in Lovett's meat pies, and although it's one of the bigger sources of laughs in the production, it's still the two of them sharing a hearty chuckle at the thought of feeding human flesh to unwitting customers. They're laughing into the void.

None of this would matter as much if the music undercut the mood, but it doesn't in the slightest. This is not the radio-ballad friendliness of modern musicals, this is Stephen Sondheim at his thorniest. The music is nervy, hurried, frenetic, time signatures twisting and coiling phrases into gnarled poems to fear and dread. It's much more operatic than what we usually think of as musical theater today, with lots of ranging into upper registers to match the steam whistles and a chorus commenting on the action. Even the kinder, gentler, sweeter numbers, extolling the virtues of pretty women or assuring someone that no harm will come to them, are juxtaposed with moments of horrible violence, impending danger, or black grief and regret. There are ballads, but they are sung by murderers to the murdered, or by people who cook and serve other people, or corrupt officials who think nothing of bending the law to serve their base desires. Again, the only exception are our lovers, Anthony and Johanna, and their sweetness and innocence, while the one bright ray in the whole production, in their singularity make it hard to take solace in their joy because you're just waiting for the other boot to drop every moment they're on stage.

In the end, everything falls apart in the worst way possible as everyone's agendas collide, leaving almost none alive or unbroken. The opening ballad is reprised as a warning: Attend the tale, lest you fall prey to Todd or someone worse, and a final slam of an iron door punctuates the proceedings - this story has ended, but the world that Todd saw so unsparingly goes on, and his last look at the audience implicates us all.

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Unavailable on Amazon Instant Video
Unavailable on Netflix

Friday, February 14, 2014

When Is A Big Budget Bad?

So recently I proclaimed my love for the small-budget indie horror film Absentia, and made a point of looking up what the director - Mike Flanagan - was up to. Apparently, a short film he made titled Oculus got optioned to be turned into a big(ger than Absentia)-budget horror production with some big names in the cast. A trailer came out recently, and I'm…

…well, I'm a little concerned.

Comparing the trailer for the original short to the trailer for the big adaptation, it looks to me like a lot of what made Absentia really good is also present in the original Oculus short - specifically, it uses small, but important details, introduced without fanfare or histrionics, to communicate a sense of wrongness and unease. Little to nothing is telegraphed - it just happens and we have to deal with it. The premise is simple - there's a cursed mirror, and this guy's going to try and figure out the truth about it, and it all goes bad in a hurry.

By contrast, in the big-budget version, we've got all kinds of clichés happening at once - abandoned attic, little children reciting some kind of creepy nursery rhyme, and the mirror's edge starts running…with blood! Ooooooohhhhhh! There's even a creepy stinger image at the end in case it had escaped our attention that this mirror is evil and does evil things and that's scary. It's trying way too fucking hard, and it misses the point that the original made so sharply. Evil is at its worst and scariest when it isn't announced, when it's just there, pure and horrific and unknowable. Giving things a mythology makes them less scary (albeit more franchisable) because it makes them more knowable, and frontloading as much spooky imagery as you can removes our ability to be surprised. It's not atmosphere, it's just visual shorthand of the Abandoned Hospital Syndrome variety, a lazy heuristic intended to tell us "okay, be scared now for reasons." One shot of an uncovered mirror in a bare white room in the original does so much more than all of the blood and creepy white eyes and little kids and decaying rooms in the remake trailer.

Now, I'm not trying to be one of those "the original was better"/"I liked it before it was cool" people, because that's just posturing bullshit. And trailers are by no means the best metric by which to judge a film's quality. It's just that in this trailer, I see early evidence of a particular directorial vision being compromised, and it's that original vision that big-budget horror needs more than any amount of CG blood or focus-tested trailers. I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fritt Vilt: What's Norwegian for "Big Mac"?

Part of why I don't like slasher movies is their tendency to hew to a specific formula. Slasher movies are movies where a group of careless teenagers are picked off one-by-one by a mysterious killer, usually in graphic and anywhere from inventive to downright implausible ways. Often, more attention is paid to the execution of the death scenes than to the characters, mood, pacing, or story. Often, they're not much more than a series of establishing scenes used to string together a bunch of gruesome, effects-heavy set pieces. This is why I generally don't like them - they're not so much scary as gross, and as such don't really inspire much of an emotional response. We're not encouraged to connect with the characters, the settings are utilitarian rather than atmospheric, and there's nothing in the story that's being told to inspire surprise or dread, so the whole process is emotionally inert. Sequels and tendencies toward increasing self-referentiality only amplify the genre's shortcomings and turn what was already a pretty dubious enterprise into something incredibly silly instead. Slashers are cinematic fast food - all fats and sugars, with any semblance of nuance or substance discarded as surplus to profit, all superfluity stripped away in favor of the cheap thrills demanded by an undiscerning audience.

(Yes, there are exceptions - there are always exceptions - but by and large it's a pretty predictable type of movie, and what it has to offer rarely, if ever, interests me.)

Still, I'm always interested to see what happens when another country gets hold of what I think of as a very American form of horror film. There's something about the way the filmmakers get the basic idea just enough to make something initially familiar, but when all of their own cultural assumptions replace all of the ones I take for granted as someone raised on the American versions, the end product feels a little off, and this is by no means a bad thing. If there's one thing something as formulaic as a slasher movie could use, it's a healthy dose of unironic, un-self-conscious weirdness. So hey, here's what appears to be a pretty stock-standard teens-in-trouble slasher movie from Norway! What's up with that?

Well, not as much as I'd hoped. Fritt Vilt (Cold Prey) does enough differently from the typical slasher movie to make it clear that it's a product of a different set of sensibilities, but not enough to make it a substantively different experience.

The film opens with a boy being chased by somebody through the snow, interspersed with footage of worried parents being interviewed (presumably) about his disappearance. It's jarring in how it flips back and forth between blinding white, yelling and screaming, and the warm, safe indoors, and the quiet, sad faces of the grieving parents, but it doesn't last long. The opening credits roll over a litany of news stories detailing the number of people who go missing in the mountains of Norway every year. So we get no credit for guessing what's going to happen over the next 90 minutes or so, and it's all a little obvious.

The credits bring us up to the present day. Five people - perpetually frisky couple Mikal and Ingunn, less juvenile and horny couple Eirik and Jannicke, and obligatory fifth wheel Morten Tobias - are off to do some snowboarding in some out of the way spots. They're laughing and joking, and the trip into the mountains serves, as it often does in movies like this, as the closest thing we're going to get to characterization in the whole movie. Mikal and Ingunn are all over each other, Eirik and Jannicke respond to a question about the two of them moving in together with different answers (awkward), and Morten Tobias makes some jokes concerning his fidelity and devotion to his right hand. They're a bunch of fun-loving kids, with fun-loving kid problems, exactly as you'd expect. This faithfulness to the slasher formula extends to the "having wacky fun before shit gets real" sequence, which in this movie is less about boozing and drugs and more about snowboarding. It's as extreme-sports as you'd expect, and as the protagonists carve through the snow, there's even genre-appropriate jock-rock playing on the soundtrack, with lyrics that don't quite parse as neatly into English as they probably should. And that sort of sets the tone of the movie - you know what it is, but some of the details swing a little wide of what you'd expect, and it's easily one of the film's most appealing aspects.

In the middle of all of the sun and snow and wholesome recreation, Morten Tobias pulls off a sick-nasty 360º method air-to-compound fracture of the leg when he takes a bad landing off a jump, and the fun comes screeching to a halt as they all try to find somewhere to hole up and take care of him. This brings them to what appears to be an abandoned ski lodge set back into the mountains - one that looks like it's been closed for about 30 years. It doesn't look like it's been maintained or even visited in ages, but it's warm and dry enough, especially once Mikal and Eirik get the generator going. They've got booze, vintage Norwegian pop music (cheesy as hell, if the reactions of the protagonists are to be believed), and even some painkillers for Morten Tobias. Making the best of a bad situation, Mikal and Ingunn head off to find a room, Eirik and Jannicke smile indulgently, Morten Tobias gets a little loaded…

…and a hulking black figure moves silently through the lodge, watching the newcomers.

From here, it's more or less what you'd expect - our protagonists are stalked and murdered by an unseen, voiceless assailant. Little misunderstandings and lack of communication mean it takes everyone a little bit to figure out what's happening, but it doesn't make them look like they're stupid - just people with their own private shortcomings who don't expect to be hunted down by a crazed murderer because shit like that doesn't happen, smirky, winking, self-referential movies aside. Once they do figure it out (surprisingly late in the movie's runtime, which is sort of a problem pacing-wise because it doesn't feel like much of a slow burn), it becomes a headlong race to keep as many of them alive as they can, with decidedly mixed results. There are some surprises - the first one to die isn't sexually promiscuous (quite the opposite), and in fact nobody actually has sex in this movie at all, neatly undercutting the weird puritanism you get in many U.S. slasher films.

Just as we're deprived of gratuitous T&A, we're also denied gratuitous blood and guts. Very little killing is actually shown on screen, and what violence we do get is quick and effective in communicating what's just happened. No lingering effects shots or exotic weaponry here - just a big dude with a pickaxe who strikes fast and with purpose. As far as characterization goes, the one with a fear of commitment isn't a guy, and the comic relief is both surprising and sort of pathetic in a way that both illustrates the tropes that replace character development in movies like this, while simultaneously illustrating just how fucked-up they are when they're taken out of a familiar context. The killer is barely seen on screen until the very end of the movie, and is almost always shot so close that he appears to be filling up the frame, effectively making him as much a force of nature as the killer in any other slasher movie, but without resorting to supernatural bullshit. The killer doesn't seem silly or gimmicky, and in the end is afforded a surprising amount of humanity for the type of film this is. In the end, he's revealed to be a person, but we're never made privy to his motivations for the most part. It's a terrible, tragic mystery as to what has happened to him and why. On the other hand, it's all for naught. As what seems to always be the case, the final girl left standing is pretty much exactly who you expect it's going to be, and the end doesn't really hold any surprises for anyone who has watched any number of these types of movies. That this film was followed by two sequels (well, a sequel and a prequel) suggests that it's much closer to the stock slasher film at heart than I would have hoped.

I think that's why I came away from this feeling disappointed - it was just different enough in the small touches to keep my attention, but was so faithful to the broader formula in the end that I never really felt surprised in any ways that mattered.  If you're going to make the thrust of your movie that there's a dude, and that dude is killing people, it's to your advantage as a filmmaker to keep your audience from feeling safe or comfortable in their expectations, and to not give them time to relax. Fritt Vilt takes a little bit of time to get going, and then once it does it doesn't really build up enough momentum to keep the audience engaged until maybe the last 15 minutes or so, when it starts to set up all of these life-or-death dilemmas in a way that it should have for the entire second half of the movie. Contrast this to Rovdyr, a Norwegian take on the teens-menaced-by-crazed-backwoodsmen story, which works very well precisely because it strips out all the bullshit and never, ever lets up once it gets going. Like that film, when things really get down to the wire, the value of human life gets pitted against the scarce resources the protagonists have for opposing the killer, and in its best moments gives the proceedings an edge of desperation (as opposed to just running around in ripped clothes) often missing from slasher films, but here it feels like too little too late. We're thankfully never subjected to a drawn-out clot of exposition explaining who the killer is and why he does what he does (we do get hints), but I feel like we could have found out more through the protagonists than we did. Again, there are nods to what must have been happening at this ski lodge since it closed, but never enough to really feel scary or unnerving or to give us the sense that the full horror of their predicament has just hit the protagonists. It's just sort of there, and then it's on to the next beat. The small subversions of the genre kept me waiting for a bigger subversion that never came, and the end result is sort of like traveling halfway across the world, only to grab dinner at the nearest McDonald's.

IMDB entry
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Available on Amazon Instant Video
Unvailable on Netflix Instant (Available on DVD)