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John’s Horror Corner: The Last Winter (2006), a dark mystical arctic horror practicing style over substance.

May 31, 2020

MY CALL: This film relies on mystique far above revelations, and operates at a rather slow but intriguing pace. If you are one to often complain about pacing and/or lack of explanations in horror movies, this is probably not for you. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Last Winter: Looking for more slowburn, creepy, Lovecraft-adjacent horror? Then go for Black Mountain Side (2014). If you want more arctic horror, check out The Thing (1982), Blood Glacier (2013), Devil’s Pass (2013), Frozen (2010) and maybe even The Grey (2011).

Arriving to join his corporate drilling team at a National Wildlife Refuge during an oddly warm Alaskan winter, Ed (Ron Perlman; Skin Trade, Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Cronos) joins Abby (Connie Britton; A Nightmare on Elm Street), Motor (Kevin Corrigan; Winter’s Tale, Hit and Run), Maxwell (Zach Gilford; The Purge: Anarchy, Devil’s Due), Elliot (Jamie Harrold), and environmentalist watchdog James Hoffman (James Le Gros; Phantasm II, Near Dark).

The rookie team member is especially curious about “the box” marking an old drilling site from a previous operation. What’s under it? It’s not long until a team member begins to mentally crack, raving about “a force” resisting them like nature might fight a disease, and soon someone is found dead… naked and frozen in the tundra… near the box. Of course, the situation continues to worsen.

People go crazy (like really crazy) and their numbers dwindle. Friends are lost and enemies become friends when survival is at stake. One hypothesis of the erratic psychological degeneration is the possible exposure to natural gases (unearthed during drilling) inducing psychoses and hallucinations.

This film was very well-made and generally well-written and acted. The design and shots of the work compound smacks of The Thing (1982). An intriguing mystery along with gorgeous photography of the Alaskan arctiscape and excellent sweeping camera work kept my attention away from the slower pacing.

With this isolated arctic horror, director Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) illustrates the perils of the remote icy wilderness with a bit of commentary on global warming. For much of the movie, we wonder if this is a Wendigo movie, a psychological thriller, or something else entirely. Only in the very end does it reveal its nature, and with very little explanation.

The general paucity of exposition will turn off many viewers. Not that everything need be explained, but here practically nothing is. This is one of those movies where not much happens (i.e., on-screen), but I like it anyway. For this reason, it pairs well with Black Mountain Side (2014) and is told in similar style.

This film relies on mystique far above revelations, and operates at a rather slow but intriguing pace. If you are one to often complain about pacing and/or lack of explanations in horror movies, this is probably not for you.

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