Monday, 15 March 2010

What's so special about Cold Prey... a question a lot of people are asking on the imdb boards for that film and its sequel. Having watched them both over the weekend I can tell you what's so special about them.

So just to explain, Cold Prey is Norwegian slasher franchise with a reputation for being better than your average masked killer film. Occasionally I get accused of liking foreign language horror films because they are in a foreign language and therefore a bit different. The question is posed, if these films had been made exactly as they are now but in Hollywood would I not be denouncing them as derivative?

Not in this case. Here's why.

Good characters. That's it. That's what makes them better than other slasher films. Not that they're unique or original exactly, but they are strong, well developed characters with realistic interactions. And they come from a good script, written in both cases by Thomas Moldestad.

Other than that the films are fairly generic and do stick with the required conventions, but there's never been anything wrong with that as long as it's done well. Yes, these are films about a man with a pick-axe picking people off one by one and yes, the second film bears a striking resemblence to Halloween 2. It doesn't matter that we've seen it all before because ultimately we've seen most stories before in one way or another, what matters is that it's told well and these films tell the story really well. Particularly when it comes to the characters.

What's interesting is that with both films there is a clear decision to spend more time on developing the characters than one normally would in this genre. In both films it's at least 30 minutes before anyone dies (a point that I'm wrangling over with a project I'm working on at the moment). What Moldestad does with that time is make sure that we have an interest in the people involved so when they do eventually die it resonates on a more personal level.

There's also an interesting distinction between plot backstory and character backstory. We never find out what any of these characters do for a living, even when it would seem necessary to the plot. For example, at the point where one of them displays advanced medical knowledge we don't get a line like 'I learnt this in medical school' - these things are left for us to fill in the blanks. The backstory we are given is to do with the relationships between the characters and that makes them so much more interesting than your basic chattering bodies that exist purely so that the killer has something to hack chunks out of. It's not necessarily about liking the characters, but it is about making them feel more like real people and that's what makes the films work.

So that's what makes the Cold Prey films so special. Well, that and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal who is awesome.

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