Fritt Vilt (AKA Cold Prey) Review
Written by: wolfsoul4
While on a fun skiing trip on an isolated run, five friends are forced to search for medical aid after one of them breaks their leg. They come across an abandoned ski lodge and take camp inside until they can formulate a plan to get help for their wounded friend. Unfortunetly for them, they chose a building that happens to be the stomping grounds of a reclusive psychopath who lives in the basement and the hulking lunatic is not happy to have uninvited guests.
Here is something of true rarity: A Norweigian slasher film. I can honestly say that this is the first Norweigian film I have seen. Not just horror, but first film period. That being said, I was quite impressed as I tend to be so with many foreign horror films! I'm guessing the studios only choose to release the very best and most well recieved films to distribute domestically as the quality of foreign horror films seems to nearly dominate the American films for the most part. Fritt Vilt is no exception, taking a very cliched and traditional story and managing to craft it into a tragic and creepy chracter driven tale of a massacre on the frozen sleet of the Norweigian tundra.
First off my main gripe with the film. I don't like the way its marketed. The DVD box describes the villain as "sombody-or someTHING - that is huge, savage and unstoppable" and the opening credits feature newspaper clippings about a number of skiiers, hikers and even families in the area going missing. This all leads to the conclusion that our antagonist must be some cool, original monstrosity...perhaps a yeti given the setting? So I was slightly disappointed when the killer turned out to be just that: a very human psycopath with a pickax. The description on the box even goes so far as to hype the film as "not just another Teens trapped with a Psychopath Film" (that's in the synopsis, not a quote from a review) and it "redefines the body count genre". Case in point, it simply hypes the film into unattainable heights. Yes, this film does stand out from the pack but at its heart it IS a slasher film and a rather routine one at that, plot-wise. It's your basic TRT (Teen RoadTrip) plot device and there's nothing truly revolutionary about it. I can;t fault the film itself, but the hype promoted by the movie's own display box sets the tone for a slight disappointment.
However, once it comes to light that Fritt Vilt really is a slasher film, it becomes something a little more. This is the type of film that is methodical in its pacing and for a purpose. Our first kill occurs about 40 minutes into the film but thats plenty of time to establish our five friends as strong, loving, dynamic yet fallible characters. In other words they are truly human. These are five kids who are good friends forced to confront what begins as turn of bad luck and devolves into a nightmare. And it shows because all five of these kids can act and all five of them truly seem like the very best of friends. Relationships between one another are established, conflicts arise (and occasionally are solved) and, much like The Descent, a darker side is unveiled as we learn that in our most desperate hours of survival, not even a kindred friendship can override that most primal of instincts to save ones own hide. The well crafted and written characters are the heart and soul of the film and they make the experience so much more involving and emotional.
Also effective is the beautiful cinematography and set design. The snowblown tundra is a beauty to behold and its also a great backdrop for a camoflauged killer to hide in. The lodge is well designed especially the killer's basement dwelling, filled with artifacts, goods, items and photos pilfered from his past victims. Such a scene that makes wonderful use of the setting involves one of our heroines face to face with the killer in the middle of a darkened hallway. As she raises a shotgun to shoot, the killer flips off his light leaving her engulfed in pitch blackness, knowing that the killer is certaintly mere feet from her.
The killer himself is an excercise in good costume design. He originally seems to be nothing more than just another slasher but as more than just his boots come into focus, he becomes a very creepy image. He wears a parka, carries a pickax and sports an eerie combination of a shredded ski mask and goggles. He looks kid of like if the Bloody Valentine Killer decided to take a hike through the tundra. His silhouette is massive and his silence makes him all the more unsettling. This is basically the closest we'll get to a Norweigian Michael Myers but he's an extremely effective villain. Couple this design with the one-two sucker punch of dark claustrophobic enclosures and windswept exteriors with zero visibilty and you've got an instant recipe for great tension.
One more pro is the true realism that this film is presented in. This does establish one more con in the process. The film is presented to be very realistic with natural reactions, a clever villain who outwits his foes and realistic death scenes. Therein lies one flaw as, for a slasher film, it is very dry in the gore department. Not very much bloodshed to be had and this is usually one of the trademarks of the slasher genre. But despite the disappointingly low gore quotient, the film still makes up for it with it's combination of naturalistic beauty and grungy suspense laden action. More pros include the outstanding music score and a tense and very well shot final duel between the survivor(s) and the killer whilst teetering over an icy crevasse!
All around, this is a slasher film in the purest sense, but with a profoundly different attitude. If you're looking for mindless kills, brutal gore and rampant sexuality look elsewhere (not that those types of films aren't fun though!)...Fritt Vilt sets a methodical pace, builds up steam and then unleashes a freight train of a killer upon a group of highly realistic and wonderful characters, brought to life by a troupe of skilled actors. Toss this upon a beautiful/gritty backdrop, pull in the blue screen tint and pepper in some solid suspense and you've got the making of a memorable slasher film. A few gripes yes; the kills are a little too dry for my taste, the beginning pacing needed an oomph, the story overall is uninspired and cliched and the reveal at the films climax seemed a little tacked on.
Roar Utahug set out to make a film that would hopefully become something special and I think he's succeeded that. While I don't think it's a true masterpiece, I will state that it is a very good film and well worth a watch. With such a creepy and menacing killer, great characters, good acting, cool set design and a great climax, you get a suspenseful and well written horror flick from our Nordic friends. A must for slasher fans and if this is what Norway has to deliver in horror than I say Oppbevare gjør films!