Monday, 18 January 2016

Film Review - 'Cold Prey 2'





It doesn't take much to kick off a new film franchise - perhaps even less with something as inherently straight-forward as the 'slasher' film. Here, if the first film is entertaining enough, and if the villain is iconic enough, fans will want to see more - or, at least, film-makers will believe that they do. Sure, the longer a franchise runs, the greater the chance that it will eventually collapse under the weight of its own absurdity - but, you have to believe that film-maker's hearts are in the right place, at least in the beginning. They just want to give the fans what they want, after all - and, if they happen to make a lot of money in the process, all the better. The success of Norway's entry to this particular genre, Cold Prey (first released in 2006), seems to have made a sequel almost inevitable. It had all of the hall-marks of a successful new franchise, after all. The mysterious Mountain Man had an iconic enough look to him that he could have been instantly recognisable to fans, and the mountain location could have easily become the next Camp Crystal Lake.

If this were the 80s, and we weren't all so cynical about this sort of thing, we could easily have been up to Cold Prey 8, by now.

It's probably for the best that the film-makers decided not to go in this direction with their sequel, though - because what we ended up getting was a lot more interesting.

The film picks up right where the last left off. Jannicke, the only survivor of the Mountain Man's rampage in the first film, is found, wounded and exhausted, and taken to a nearby hospital. After being treated for her injuries, she recovers well enough to be able to report the events of the first film to the police - who, in another impressive display of intelligence from characters in a 'slasher' film, take her report seriously and launch an immediate investigation. The scene is explored, and the bodies are recovered - but, when Jannicke is asked to identify the bodies later, she is horrified to discover that the body of the killer had also been brought to the hospital.

Naturally, this doesn't end well.

Despite his injuries, the killer still shows faint signs of life - he is treated, ultimately recovers, and I'm sure you can guess where things go from there.

One thing that this film manages to do rather well (and, which you don't tend to see with this sort of story) is to give a seemingly realistic portrayal of what the long-term consequences would be for someone who actually survived one of these films. It is made very clear, early on, that the events of the first film have left Jannicke suffering from a very real trauma - and, she remains in that state for much of the first half of the film. It may seem like a small thing, over all - but, it is still an important touch of realism.

But, of course, it doesn't last. Once the mysterious killer makes his, unsurprising, return, Jannicke's survival instincts kick in, an we are back in familiar territory. Or, perhaps, not so familiar - as, once the action starts, it becomes apparent, fairly quickly, that this second film will have a very different tone to the first. While the previous film was all about the tension and the suspense, we soon learn that this one clearly intends to place more emphasis on overt action.

It took time, and a few violent deaths, before the cast of the first film where pushed to the point that they were willing and able to fight back - but, of course, that is exactly where Jannicke starts, here. So, rather than simply have Jannicke pushed back into the role of passive victim, instead we get to see her, here, as a weary and traumatised survivor - one who is perfectly capable of fighting back, even is she is still obviously terrified.

What this means, in the end is that Cold Prey 2 feels like a very different film to the previous one while, at the same time, still feeling like a logical progression for the story, as a whole. The shift toward more overt action, as Jannicke and the Mountain Man find themselves drawn into direct conflict, may result in a loss of some of the tension of the previous film. But, there is also a stronger sense of excitement in having such an aggressively proactive protagonist, that the previous film lacked - so, it balances itself out, somewhat.

Unfortunately, the film's focus on Jannicke, and her continuing struggles to survive, does come at the expense of the supporting cast - who simply aren't given the time, or the opportunity, to establish themselves in the way that the supporting cast of the previous film were able to. But, then, Jannicke quickly proves herself to be a compelling enough figure to carry the film on her own - so, it's not quite the loss it might have been.

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