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Movie Review: The Last Winter

The Last Winter (IFC Films)
Directed by Larry Fessenden
Written by Fessenden and Robert Leaver

Filmed in 2006 and in a limited release run in the United States currently, The Last Winter gives us the first global warming horror film that I can recall. It shouldn’t be too surprising. Horror films, more than any other genre, have always been fairly topical. With Al Gore’s intriguing documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, global warming is as hot a topic in the media right now as any.

In the artic region of Northern Alaska, an oil company’s advanced team is struggling to develop an oil-drilling base. After several attempts are made to move the equipment, strange things start happening to the team. A crewmember goes missing for an entire day, and when he finally shows up, his GES locator reads that he has been walking for over 300 miles. He’s also refusing to eat and telling strange stories about how there is something out there that doesn’t want them to tear up the land. He is found naked and frozen in the snow a couple of days later holding a mysterious video tape that will hopefully show the rest of the team why they need to get the hell out of dodge.

Ed Pollack (Ron Perlman) is the asshole of a team leader that is more concerned with the financial stakes and refuses to let anyone go or call for help; he even burns the videotape. James Hoffman (James LeGros) is the environmental expert assigned to the team, and he tries profusely to get Pollack to reconsider.

Shortly after the first death, other team members start seeing strange things and get unexplainable nosebleeds that end up killing one of the team. Pollack finally decides to get everyone out of there until they can figure out what is going on, but it’s clear at this point that whatever is out there does not want them to leave.

This is director Larry Fessenden’s first feature since his 2001 indie horror film, Wendigo. Judging from this film, Fessenden obviously has had the environment on his mind for the past six years, and had a serious statement to make in this film. I can respect that, but Snoop Dogg probably had a serious message to get across concerning the state of urban violence and crime in Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror, which was silly and stupid. The point is, unless you’re extremely subtle, a preachy horror film is extremely hard to pull off. And Fessenden is not being subtle.

James LeGros is a fine actor, and he does a decent job here with what he’s given, but the character of Hoffman is so relentless and obvious with his goals that it’s really hard not to hate him. Not to mention they throw in a love triangle sub-plot where Hoffman is sleeping with Pollack’s ex, Abby Sellers (Connie Britton). It’s kind of hard to get any sympathy from Hoffman with this storyline either.

Fessenden also spends a lot of time on the mood and build-up to the upcoming horrors. I have no issue with this, because if the payoff is there then this could still work fairly well despite all of the pulpit nonsense. In the early part of the film I was reminded of the great Arctic horrors of John Carpenter’s The Thing. However, the payoff really sucks. When Pollack and Hoffman are forced to go out on their own, they run into what looks like the ghost of a mutated moose. In the end we get a final shot of the outcome that is obviously supposed to be deep and meaningful, judging by the twinge of the score, but I found it to be confusing and pointless.

While I know Fessenden is trying desperately to make a point here, a different genre would have suited him better. Because if I’ve got this correctly, he is basically telling us that if we don’t take care of the environment then we might all end up being killed by a mutated moose. An Inconvenient Truth works because it is a documentary that gives us facts backed up by strong opinions. Fessenden either needed to cutback on the social commentary or just make a straight up creature feature. Because frankly, this is just flat out ridiculous if you take two seconds to think about it.

I have no problem with a serious minded thriller that shows a concern for our environmental issues, and I have a feeling there are some environmental groups out there that will be showing this film at their demonstrations in hopes to guide more people to their cause. Good luck to you because if I learned that you were preaching to me about a mutated moose and deadly nosebleeds, I might start buying a little more oil stock. Not trying to be an asshole, but give me a break.  


Sam Loomis


Comment from Doc
Time: October 24, 2007, 2:26 pm

A mutated moose? I’ve got to see this one!

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