Written by: Thomas Moldestad (screenplay and story), Martin Sundland & Roar Uthaug (story), Axel Hellstenius & Marius Vibe
Directed by: Mats Stenberg
Starring: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, and Kim Wifladt
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
She thought her nightmare was over...she was wrong!
Cold Prey’s most overt reference is to The Shining, but it’s hard to imagine that Halloween wasn’t the guiding force behind the Norwegian slasher. Between its polish, restraint, and enigmatic murderer, the film more obviously took its cues from Carpenter’s refined slasher instead of its more splattery cohorts. It’s appropriate, then, that Cold Prey II takes an obvious cue from Halloween II: not only does it pick up directly from its predecessor and take refuge in a hospital, but it’s also a bigger, bloodier update that builds on the original’s foundation. Unlike that sequel, though, this one actually improves upon the first film, and, in doing so, catapults itself among the best in its genre.
It doesn’t pick up seconds after the first Cold Prey; instead, enough time has passed for that film’s lone survivor (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) to wander in to the nearest town, where she’s admitted to the local hospital. After relaying her harrowing story, the police decide to check out the grisly crime scene and end up hauling all the dead bodies back with them, including the homicidal mountain man’s. Despite Jannick’s protests, they keep his body on ice in the hospital, and, as predicted, he does his best Jason Voorhees impersonation by rising off the morgue slab.
He then proceeds to add to his body count, and he does so in more impressive fashion here. If I had a big criticism of the first Cold Prey, it’s that its slashing is a little too restrained and unmemorable since it wasn’t out to do the splatter movie thing. Part II doesn’t have as many reservations about that, as the killer wields various implements of death besides his trusty pickaxe. The sequences are generally more elaborate, with two of them proving to be especially memorable (which is two more than the first one can boast). New director Mats Stenberg doesn’t sell the series out to total splatter, however, and finds a nice balance between actual suspense and the gory payoffs.
The deaths also don’t inspire the typical sort of awe: they’re brutal, visceral, and even a little disturbing, mostly because Stenberg also replicates the original’s commitment to character development. Surrounding the returning Berdal is an unusual set of newcomers for a slasher movie: in addition to the expected nurses and doctors, the fellow patients also include a young boy and an elderly lady with dementia. That seems like cheap slasher heat--of course you don’t really want to see these two get butchered, but the script earns it by establishing a connection among all of the characters. One subplot also features the hospital’s security guard (Mats Eldøen) falling in puppy-love with one of the nurses (Johanna Mørck), a development that recalls the ill-fated couple from the original movie. Mørck especially is a revelation with a sweet, reassuring presence that would qualify her for Final Girl status in most slashers (like the original, everyone here is quite affable, so there’s no defaulting to who is definitely going to be spared).
Speaking of Final Girls, Cold Prey II one-ups Halloween II in this department since Jannicke isn’t confined to a hotel bed and relegated to a mostly passive role like Laurie Strode. Instead, she’s raring to kick ass again almost right from the start. Upon learning that her would-be murderer is right down the hall from her, she’s ready to barge in and finish the job; she certainly doesn’t need a Dr. Loomis to act on her behalf and knows this guy is somehow preternatural. She also isn’t alone because the script develops another nurse (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik) to accompany her and form a pair of Final Girls, a rare conceit that’s pulled off remarkably here. Imagine if one of the nurses in Halloween II hadn’t just been there to add to the body count, and you’ll get an idea as to how Cold Prey II operates.
This sequel also avoids one of Carpenter’s big pitfalls in Halloween II by not shedding too much light on the killer, and it certainly doesn’t resort to a contrived retcon. More than anything, it just confirms the sparse backstory of the original film: one of the cops follows his hunch that the mountain man is the young boy that “disappeared” three decades earlier. In reality, his parents attempted to murder him since his animal mutilations were causing bad business for their hotel. More information trickles in to explain just why he’s prone to violence, and it’s straight out of the Michael Myers “pure evil” playbook. If you’re going to borrow from Halloween, you might as well borrow its essence.
That leanness is on display throughout Cold Prey II; whereas the first Halloween sequel ambles about, this one is razor sharp and has a nice sense of escalation. Its first hour largely follows the format of the original by front-loading all of the character development and then threading the violence through it, but its third act takes some nice, surprising turns that cement Jannicke among the all-time great Final Girls. Cold Prey II doesn’t miss a beat with Stenberg taking the helm—it’s a good example of a sequel that’s working from a great blueprint (two of ‘em in this case if you count Halloween II) and doesn’t try to alter it too much: this is still an efficient, no-frills slasher that mixes atmosphere (Stenberg makes great use of the claustrophobic hotel setting), suspense, and gore in equal amounts.
It’s also the rare sequel that represents an improvement over the original, so I have high hopes for the third film. Since it was released three years ago, I can only assume that puts it on target for a U.S. release in a few years if the previous entries’ release patterns are any indication. Cold Prey II has been out in its native land since 2008 (!), and Shout Factory has finally brought it stateside with a solid DVD release that boasts a sleek anamorphic transfer and a dynamic 5.1 Norwegian track. The special features are sparse since there’s only a trailer and seven deleted scenes. Some might call for a more robust set of features, but this is one of those cases where we should just be happy to finally have this gem. My only complaint is that Shout didn’t do us a solid by making it a double feature with Part III. My review for the first movie might have touted a “better late than never” philosophy, but let’s not take so long with the next one. Buy it!
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