Monday, December 1, 2008

The Last Winter

A key element in much of horror is a sense of isolation for the characters. In the modern world, with cell phones, the internet, and rapid means of travel, this has become difficult to achieve. Among the settings still useful for this are the frozen reaches near the poles. John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece The Thing used the Antarctic to great effect, and now Larry Fessenden locates his environmental horror The Last Winter in the Arctic, with uneven results.

In northern Alaska, a team of oil company workers are preparing to reopen an abandoned drilling site. There is the standard tension between the oilmen, led by the always great Ron Perlman, and an environmentalist, played by James LeGros. (The cast also includes two actors from Friday Night Lights, Connie Britton and Zach Gilford, which gave me the amusing impression that a really bad season for the Dillon Panthers results in Arctic banishment) As an added concern, some members of the team are starting to experience hallucinations on the barren wastes. Soon, the crew members begin to die, and the survivors realize they are not alone.

SPOILER WARNING: I will reveal the end of the movie next, so stop reading if you don't want to know.

As long as what is going on remains a mystery, the movie works just fine. As is often the case, when the menace is unknown, your imagination fills in the blanks in terrifying fashion, and when the danger is revealed, there is a letdown. And, brother, is the big reveal in The Last Winter a letdown. You see, what has been terrorizing and killing the drillers is...ghost moose.
Apparently, nature has reacted to the danger posed by man by dispatching a crack squad of killer ghost moose (mooses? meece?) to kill, well, everybody at the end of the movie. This strained credulity a bit.

Up until this point, the movie worked well. It would have been a better ending if what was going on had never been explained, but there came the moose. Mooses.

The movie is well shot and well acted, and there is a truly creepy air to the first two-thirds of the movie, so it isn't a complete washout. But the ending misses the mark by too much to be a thumbs up.

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