Thursday, September 27, 2007
The Last Winter (2007)
Larry Fessenden is an interesting filmmaker. Even though he makes horror movies (Habit, Wendigo) they generally feel like they would rather be politically-themed indie movies, for better and for worse. So at its worst, The Last Winter feels like what would happen if Paul Haggis decided to make a monster movie. It's set in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Ron Perlman plays a charismatic blowhard determined to make progress in drilling oil wells in the region, despite the objections of the local environmentalist, played by a bearded James LeGros. The movie leaves no doubt that the evil oil man is wrong and the saintly scientist is right about leaving the tundra alone, which drains the movie of much drama. Of course comeuppance comes in the form of ghostly caribou and bizarre weather formations before too long.
Fortunately as the movie goes along, it gets weirder and deeper than the standard eco-horror movie, and the climax broadens out in scope in a nicely ominous way (borrowing the ending of the first Resident Evil). I was skeptical for a long time that the movie was going to do more than just toy with the audience, since there seemed to be a lot of scenes of people talking about how strange everything was without anything really all that strange being visualized. David Cronenberg made artsy horror movies early in his career, too, but he also had enough commercial sense to have a head explode every so often, while Fessenden seems to be uninterested in providing his audience with standard payoffs or to lighten his moods with anything approaching comic relief.
It helps that even though Fessenden's narrative is convoluted and unven, he gets good performances out of his cast, including "Friday Night Lights" costars Connie Britton and Zach Gilford, and he has a feeling for editing, sound design, and music to gloss over the weak spots of the movie with eerie moods.
It also helps that I love movies set in frosty Arctic (or Antarctic) realms. There's something about those vast expanses of snow that hits a nerve with me.