Despite a slew of missing persons recently reported lost or abducted in the back country, a group of rebellious snowboarders take to the steep face of a secluded mountain to rip some boned out tricks on the naked slopes. The stock characters are quickly established during the canyon drive: Mikal and Ingunn, the horny couple; Eirik and Jannicke, the bickering couple; and Morten, the fifth wheel. The slope-carving has barely begun when Morten is suddenly forced to face the bane of isolated, fifth-wheel horror movie characters everywhere: the compound fracture.
Miles from their SUV, the friends set Morton’s break and lug his gimpy ass through the snow until they reach a hotel, abandoned and fortuitously parked out in the middle of the frozen landscape. After breaking in and promptly raiding the hotel’s liquor supply, the friends pump a bunch of pills and booze into Morten, stick him on a lobby sofa to snooze and talk to himself, and begin to explore in earnest. The creepy hotel harbors questions and secrets, and it isn’t long before the snowboarders realize that they’re not entirely alone.
COLD PREY takes full advantage of its snowy, secluded set-pieces, using Norway’s harsh winter landscape to build tension and heighten the sense of isolation, much like A SIMPLE PLAN, John Carpenter’s THE THING, or THE SHINING (briefly referenced with a close-up of a hotel room door numbered “237”). As horror movies go, COLD PREY is a slow-starter, committing the first third of its running time to investigating the signs of violence scattered throughout the hotel, allowing the characters to theorize about what pernicious acts may have taken place before the hotel’s abandonment. It begins at the intriguing yet deliberate pace of a psychological horror film as the sequestered friends, initially inebriated and giggly, explore the hotel and sharing secrets, but the movie’s party-hard atmosphere bursts open at the 40-minute mark to reveal a black horror center.
Slick and stylish, COLD PREY is a genuine pleasure to watch. It cribs liberally from American horror films, but come on, it’s what all the cool countries are doing these days. There’s no reason why Norway should be left out in the cold. (har.) And after the brilliant LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, Norwegian horror cinema deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to chuckle at the (many) scenes featuring Morten limping around the hotel on his compound fracture like it’s a mild ankle sprain, but when the first body finally falls, COLD PREY has a way of killing any laughter in the room.