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The Last Winter

Hell Hath No Fury Like An Environment Scorned

Writer/director Larry Fessenden is one of the most original voices in the horror genre today. His previous efforts (Wendigo, No Telling) were understated, slow burning headtrips that reflect various societal fears. In a similar vein, Fessenden has crafted perhaps the first "environmental" horror film in The Last Winter. An oil drilling team heads to the Artic tundra in Alaska for a job. With temperatures rising and the weather all over the map, the team begins to wonder if they’ve incurred the wrath of something supernatural.

The Last Winter bears more than a passing resemblance to The Thing (both the original and John Carpenter’s version). You’ve got a motley crew of burned out, ragtag oil drillers out in the middle of nowhere in a claustrophobic setting, and a myriad of bizarre occurrences that raise everyone’s hackles. Leading this crew is the craggy Ron Perlman As Ed Pollack. Pollack is short tempered, cantankerous, and could give a crap about anything other than plundering the tundra for some black gold.

Pollack’s foil is the environmentally friendly scientist James Hoffman (James LeGros) whose job is to make sure Pollack’s drilling occurs with minimal environmental impact. As if Pollack doesn’t have enough reason to dislike Hoffman, it so happens he’s getting friendly with Hoffman’s ex-girlfriend, Abby (Connie Britton), who’s also along for the job.

An already tense situation becomes even more dicey when a rookie member of the team starts seeing funny things out on the tundra. Strange hoof prints, weird apparitions, and violent gusts of wind are just part of the equation as things go from bad to worse. As is usually the case with any horror film that involves claustrophobia and paranoia, it’s unclear if what is happening is real or some kind of hallucination.

What is apparent is the environment around this unfortunate crew is not happy and whether it’s sour gas, some kind of otherworldly spirit unleashed from the thawing tundra, or the fury of mother nature, it’s likely the last winter for Pollack and his drillheads as temperatures continue to rise and the tundra continues to thaw.

The Last Winter is a breath of fresh air in that it’s far from a splatterfest a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hostel. Director Fessenden does a nice job of gradually building tension in the early stages of the film and gets most of his scares through an increasing sense of anxiety and uneasiness. However, what prevents The Last Winter from being a truly frightening horror film is the predictability of what transpires. While there are some genuine scares, much of what happens is unfortunately not much of a surprise.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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