JUNE 24, 2007
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (FILM FESTIVAL SCREENING)
The Last Winter was written, directed, and edited by Larry Fessenden. He also produced The Roost (hey, that rhymes!), but I tried not to hold that against him. Producing and writing/directing are two different things (unless you’re Jerry Bruckheimer) and besides, I am forever looking for a good snowbound horror movie. But, like Wind Chill, The Last Winter is not it. Along with Iced and Shredder (two of the worst slasher movies ever made), maybe I just have to accept that snow and horror movies do not mix. Maybe 30 Days of Night will pull it off. But I must admit I am not comfortable with pinning my hopes (for anything) on a Josh Hartnett movie.
Things start off real (and too) slow, as Ron Perlman arrives at a remote Alaskan drilling station of some sort in order to re-assess the situation with some environmental types (James LeGros and that Rainn Wilson-y guy from Kingdom Hospital). It seems that the weather is too warm to risk hauling heavy equipment across the permafrost. Perlman is all “fuck the owls, people need oil so they can drive to the corner store!” and LeGros is all “The owls and trees are more important than people being able to drive to work!” There’s the usual motley crew – a nurse/cook, a mechanic, etc., and like The Thing, you get the impression that cabin fever is starting to sink in. After a while, people begin acting strange, and means of escape/rescue are repeatedly thwarted. We’ve seen it all before, but that wouldn’t be a problem if there were enough interesting additions to the ‘people stuck somewhere’ template to keep your interest. And in fact, the backstory that is set up is quite interesting (global warming is thawing the tundra, releasing some sort of prehistoric gas that is causing mass hypnosis/paranoia) but the movie takes far too long to get going, and then when it does, it more or less ramps back down again after 20 minutes or so, finally just sort of petering out.
Part of the problem is, the horror elements are barely present, and the film has very few moments of actual suspense. One character is murdered by another, and the ensuing ‘panic’ is so half-assed and quickly resolved, you gotta wonder why they bothered implementing it at all. And I wouldn’t mind if more was done with the ‘environment striking back’ plot but that doesn’t happen either. If you took a quick trip to the bathroom you might miss the one scene where it’s mentioned and spend the rest of the movie wondering what the fuck was going on and why. It’s not enough to come up with a good idea: you gotta DEVELOP the goddamn thing to. Maybe in The Next To Last Winter?
Earlier this year, I saw Wind Chill, a not very good movie which probably would have been better if either of the characters were remotely likeable (or if the ending made any goddamn sense). The Last Winter falls into the same trap. While the characters are slightly more likeable (due more to appreciation of the actors themselves than their characters – how can you NOT like Kevin Corrigan or Ron Perlman?), they’re still no one you will really CARE about. The only remotely sympathetic character is a guy named Maxwell, who’s played by the kid from Friday Night Lights. He’s a young kid who is the first to go apeshit and spends his final scene talking to himself, naked, in the middle of a snowy field. Poor sod.
There are some great bits and setpieces here and there, but it’s still too slow for its own good, and worse, has a conclusion that fails to resolve anything or even up the ante. Other than an odd (and obviously under-budgeted) post-apocalyptic epilogue, nothing happens in the climax that hasn’t already happened 2-3 times before in the film; namely, some ghostly buffalo-ish things kill someone for some reason. You can ASSUME they want revenge for destroying their land, but then why kill the environmental guy who was trying to stop them? And we are given the impression that the ghost-buffalos don’t want anyone to leave/rescue to arrive, so how does the survivor end up in a hospital in a regular metropolitan city?
And why, in a movie that obviously wants to deliver a point on the dangers of global warming, is there a seemingly anti-health care ad in the final moments? We see a sign that says “Health Care is a privilege, not a right.” Well that’s comforting, thanks. So poor people who can’t afford/are not offered health insurance shouldn’t worry about it and instead save their money for an electric car? Gotcha.
What say you?