DVD Review: COLD PREY II

BC reviews the sequel to one of the movies he loves, out on DVD from Shout Factory.

Well it's about goddamn time. In 2009, Anchor Bay brought the (2006) Norwegian slasher movie Cold Prey to the US, but for whatever reason, never pursued its already completed sequel, leaving folks like me to settle for import DVDs to quench our thirst for more snowbound, old-school slasher terror. Thankfully, four years later, Shout Factory has righted the wrongs, delivering a legit DVD release of Cold Prey II (aka Fritt Vilt II) for us poor sods in Region 1 (and yes, there's also a Cold Prey III from 2010; by my calculations it will arrive here in 2017 from Image or something). And it has been almost three years since I watched my import disc, so I was excited to revisit it and see if it held up.

Luckily, it does! Picking up where the original left off, the local police are informed of an abandoned car out by the mountain, and when a cop goes to investigate he stumbles upon Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the now shell-shocked survivor of the first film. He brings her to the hospital, where she tells her insane-sounding story of a man who murdered her friends and threw their bodies into a crevice. The cops don't fully believe her but they check it out anyway, bringing all of the bodies they find back to the same hospital. Unfortunately, the killer was among them, and being a slasher movie villain he's not actually dead, resulting in another killing spree that (like the original) emphasizes suspense and atmosphere over a high body count.

Of course, to some ADD-addled horror "fans" that judge a movie's merit by the number of gallons of blood they see, that means this movie is merely boring. Indeed, considering the obvious homage to Halloween II (direct continuation, hospital setting, a heroine who's kind of out of it for a good chunk in the movie), it is a little weird that it takes forty minutes for Geir Olav Brath to wake up and start killing folks, since it's not like they need to set up the concept again. But the tradeoff is that it gives us time to meet our new characters and care about them a little - admirable in this day and age, and it actually works. It's rare that I feel legit sad over a character's death, and it's usually someone in a sequel - i.e. Randy in Scream 2 or Annie in Rob Zombie's Halloween II - so I've had two movies to get to know them. But here, the first victim is a new character who had won me over, and that he gets it worse than pretty much anyone (it's the first kill, it's gotta be a good one!) makes it even more of a bummer.

But it actually works better as a direct followup than the original Halloween II did. Both movies had a change in director and actor playing the killer, but the change is much smoother here than it was for Michael Myers' second go-around (where the new Shape wasn't nearly as imposing and hindered by the ill-fitting mask; and Rick Rosenthal... well, I don't need to explain how he compares to John Carpenter). Mats Stenberg (taking over for Roar Uthaug, who produced and contributed to the script here) shares his predecessor's approach to this sort of movie - lots of shadows, long shots of corridors, and interiors that manage to look as cold as the exteriors. If you recall, I have a passion for snowbound slashers that often leaves me with blue balls, so the fact that I finally have not one but two thanks to the Cold Prey series (I haven't seen Cold Prey 3, but since it's a prequel with an entirely different creative team save for a couple producers, I don't hold out much hope) makes me a very happy slasher fan, and I'd be willing to bet some folks won't even notice the difference, whereas you'd have to be blind to not notice that Halloween II wasn't nearly as skillfully shot as the original*.

And while Jannicke spends a chunk of the movie in bed like Laurie Strode, once she gets out she doesn't just stumble around like Jamie Lee did; she takes charge (I particularly like when she takes a big whiff of some sort of chemical in order to sober her up from the painkillers and such) and kicks some ass, rather than just let the Dr. Loomis stand-in do everything. But there is some back-story to fill in, and given the Halloween similarities I wish the cop had a more prominent role - he goes off to find out who the killer is, discovers the newspaper clippings and such that we saw in the first film, and finds out a new part of his story. It's basically a goofy, reverse-engineered way to explain why Brath is up and about again, but hey, at least they're trying to make it a little more realistic, instead of going the zombie route like Jason (or, more fitting, chalking his seeming invincibility up to a Druid cult). If nothing else, I assume the prequel approach of the third (and seeming final) film is a way to keep it from getting too silly by picking up from this ending, so I can appreciate that.

Shout's disc is technically bare-bones; there are deleted scenes (with a 'play all' function that didn't work on my disc), but they're all in the movie? It's not like Dogma or whatever where they say it's a deleted scene when it's really just a scene we saw with an extra line or two, I mean they are LITERALLY the exact same thing we saw in the film itself. My only explanation is that they were cut from a different release of the film (they're all of the quieter variety; the sort of thing you would expect to see cut from a film), and Shout didn't realize that they had provided the full cut of the film with all that material included. Or maybe they did realize it and it was too late to change the disc, as neither the "deleted" scenes nor the film's trailer (the only extras) are advertised on the disc's packaging. The anamorphic transfer is solid; this is a dark film that I'd love to see on Blu-ray given the extra detail it would provide, but I'm sure that a Norwegian horror sequel (sans a dub track; subtitles or bust!) won't exactly be a top seller, so I'll take what I can get. Still, hopefully they'll rescue the original from Anchor Bay (who barely seems interested in their horror titles these days), pick up the third film and put together a trilogy set with some bonus material. Can't vouch for Cold Prey 3 yet, but I've already gushed over the original and this one is just as good, so I'd love to see the whole set in a nice package on my shelf.

*When I was like 10 and saw the films for the first time, I was drawn to two scenes in particular - Michael walking down the crowded street and hearing the news broadcast about where Laurie is, and the extended, rather pointless (but scary) sequence where Michael kills the girl next door to the Elrod's. Years and years later, I'd learn that they were the two scenes Carpenter shot himself.

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