Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cold Prey II

2008
Dir. Mats Stenberg

Having survived the massacre that claimed the lives of her friends in an abandoned hotel at the hands of a psychotic, seemingly feral killer, Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) finds that her nightmare is far from over. Taken to a rural hospital to be treated for shock, she realises that the body of the monstrous brute she thought she’d killed has been recovered along with those of her friends’ and brought to the hospital where she’s staying. On closer inspection, the doctors discover the killer is not dead at all, and before the night is over Jannicke finds herself fighting to stay alive in the midst of another bloodbath…

Cold Prey II is one of those rare specimens – a slasher sequel that is actually good. It maintains the momentum of the first instalment, picking up directly where it left off (the first of many nods to Halloween II), adds to the story and doesn’t just recycle itself in the hackneyed manner of so many slasher sequels. Viewers will reap a much more rewarding experience by watching Cold Prey II in quick succession of its predecessor – it flawlessly flows as a continuation of the same story. Despite the fact that one of the things that made the first film so effective was its stripped back, sparse simplicity, Cold Prey II does the unexpected – it actually expands the back-story of various characters, including the killer – and does it well. And that it is just as suspenseful, tautly constructed and atmospheric as the original is another unexpected bonus.


Joining the ranks of other hospital based slashers such as Halloween II, Phobia, Visiting Hours and X-Ray, Cold Prey II sets itself apart with smart writing and assured direction. And because it’s actually good. Bloody good, in fact. Not content to rest on its laurels – it immediately begins setting up a new cast of well-rounded, likable characters to become acquainted with – and it is a credit to the filmmakers that they actually take time to do this. This may be a sequel, but its characters are given the same development as their predecessors, which is another surprising aspect of the film. While it is aware of its status as a slasher sequel and delivers what you’d expect – bigger cast, higher body count and more elaborate kills - Cold Prey II still unravels as a refreshingly solid and intelligent horror flick: the body count might be bigger, but the bodies are fully developed characters that react realistically to their predicament.

Making a welcome return is Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Jannicke, a genuinely likable and resourceful Final Girl in the grand tradition of the likes of Nancy Thompson, Alice Hardy and Laurie Strode. Relieved that she survived her ordeal in the first film, we now root for her to make it through this one as she’s more vulnerable than ever; tired, drugged and trying desperately to remain vigilant. While she might echo the likes of Linda Hamilton or Ellen Ripley in the more gung-ho scenes, she’s still vulnerable, ‘attainable’ and relatable enough to ensure she hasn’t transcended her boundaries of ‘ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances’. The sight of her in hospitable gown, cardigan and slippers is enough to remind us of that. She’s joined by Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik), a thoughtful nurse contemplating moving to Oslo, several other hospital staff including a lovelorn cop, a stressed doctor, kindly nurse and a little boy waiting for his parents to pick him up (Newt, anyone?) who are of course, gradually whittled down one by one in an increasingly tense narrative that relies on slow-burning tension long before the blood begins to flow. Meanwhile the local sheriff begins to retrace an unsolved case from years back to uncover the identity of the killer.


The characters, as mentioned, behave realistically and do everything right for once – the police are effectual and immediately investigate Jannicke’s seemingly crazy claims, they take her seriously and they don’t treat her like a lunatic. How strange! Stranger still – a bunch of doctors, nurses and security guards that actually do their jobs instead of sneaking off to have sex in the closet, like most characters do in slasher films. When they go to search where Jannicke said the bodies of her friends are, they find the bodies, including, most surprisingly – the body of the killer. Tension comes from when and how he’ll revive, or even if he will – maybe he had an accomplice in the first film that’ll show up? That’s the fun to be had here, and director Stenberg knows it and milks it for all its worth. The revelations when they eventually come, don’t disappoint – and in a strange way are as scant as the revelations in the first film. One problem the script doesn’t fall into is exploring in too much detail the origins of this killer – the writers know that’s exactly what took away Michael Myers’ menace… The formidable killer in this remains as cold-blooded and calculating as ever. All we know is that his parents owned the hotel from the first film, his disappearance as a boy was no accident and from a young age he was described as ‘not normal.’ His appearance recalls nightmares of abominable things lurking in the deep snow... 


The hospital setting emphasises the isolation and vulnerability of the characters and with this being a slasher movie, is eerily deserted. The explanation for its emptiness echoes Assault on Precinct 13; its being shut down and all the patients have been transferred, leaving only a small group of staff behind. This actually mirrors the plight of many small rural communities in Norway; their hospitals, local businesses and schools forced to close because people have moved to the cities. See? Slashers can offer topical social commentary too. And be believable in the process.

As highly original, compelling and nerve-wrecking a slasher of the highest order as its predecessor.

2 comments:

christine said...

So happy to see a glowing write up! I enjoyed the original
"Cold Prey" but when hearing the premise of the squeal, I was wary to jump on board. What worked so well for me was the abandoned hotel and isolation brought on by the mountains of fluffy snow. I'm overjoyed that a similar vibe was achievable in the hospital.
"Cold Prey" is a film that I wasn't totally sold on until I started reading other reviews. For some reason, I was very hard on it. But taking in so many enthusiastic opinions (yours included) has really swayed me. Can't wait to check out number 2!!

James said...

I really, REALLY loved these films. Maybe it was that I had no expectations or anything when I checked them out - other than I'd heard they were good. I just thought they were so solid - and while arguably typical slashers, they felt fresh and exciting. I hope you enjoy part II when you get to check it out! Such a suitable follow up - I loved that they didn't just recycle the format of the first one and have more teens get stranded at the hotel - they made a brave move in continuing the story - and it really pays off!