Jill and I have settled on a Free for All month for November because December will most likely be Shit Christmas TV Movies month. Look, we’re not machines and thinking of themes every month is hella difficult. So movies from our wish lists it is.
My pick this week is by one of my favourite directors and the screenplay is by Macon Blair so colour me pretty excited.
Hold The Dark (2018)
Riley Keough, Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, James Badge Dale
After the deaths of three children suspected to be killed by wolves, writer Russell Core is hired by the parents of a missing six-year-old boy to track down and locate their son in the Alaskan wilderness.
Writer and wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is called to a small Alaskan village to help track down and locate a missing six-year-old. This follows the death of three other children who may or may not have been taken by a pack of wolves who inhabit the outskirts of town.
The missing boy is Bailey and his mother is Medora Slone (Riley Keough), who’s husband is currently off fighting in Iraq. Medora has written to Russell directly, asking him to come and hunt down the wolves responsible for all these deaths. Meanwhile Vern (Alexander Skarsgård), Medora’s husband (and Bailey’s father) is injured in Iraq after saving a local woman from a fellow soldier – and is on his way home…
As Medora and Russell discuss the missing children on their first night, she tells him about a hot springs north of town. She claims this is the only place she can ever get truly warm. After scrubbing herself raw in the tub, she then approaches Russell naked, wearing only a wooden wolf mask. Poor Russell doesn’t know where to look or what to do but the scene is ripe with symbolism and he’s kind, so he just sort of goes with it.
In the morning, he goes off to track the wolves and meets an elderly native woman who tell him that Medora ‘knows evil’. Russell stumbles and falls in front of the pack of wolves, who are in a clearing eating one of their young. While they are covered in blood and dining out on one of their own, they do not move towards a felled Russell and look on him with disinterest.
He is unable to shoot them as a result and heads back to Medora’s where he finds something that chills him to the bone: aka. Bailey, who has been strangled and placed in the freezer. This throws up a few answers but also many questions. Medora too is gone and when Russell calls for help from the local natives, they explain that she’s possessed by a wolf-demon called a tournaq.
When the feds get involved, all hell breaks loose and that’s namely because Vern is back and he’s on his own personal mission to find Medora. But what is his final motivation?
What follows is a bloody rampage and a race to get to Medora first. Russell teams up with police chief Donald Marium (James Badge Dale) who has his own child on the way with his wife. The two men start to bond following the discovery of Bailey’s body and are united in their quest to find Medora before Vern does. Russell is a clever egg and soon works out where she’s hiding based on some of their past conversations. Will he get there in time or will Vern?
Well. This is one of those movies that needs a little unraveling at the end. By which I mean, I needed to read up on it afterwards in order to click all the pieces in place.
It’s beautiful looking and is definitely an above average movie but I can imagine it not being to everybody’s taste. It is quite subtle though and I didn’t pick up on some of the nuances in the relationship between Medora and Vern.
Medora’s reason for killing her son is also not particularly overt though my understanding is that she ends his life for the greater good and for the ultimate survival of her own pack, namely her family. She is pregnant with a new cub as she and Vern meet again – and almost everything about the actions she takes can be related back to wolves and wolf behaviour.
I’m not going to go in too much but this article explains it incredibly well.
I liked it. I love Saulnier at the best of times and this movie, although it is slower that Blue Ruin or the frenetic Green Room, still contains his signature. That signature for the uninitiated is hyper-violence but there’s more to it than that, I’m just not sure how to describe it and I’m tired.
What does my spirited partner in crime think of this? Would she run wild with it through the forest or put it down ASAP? Find out here.
4 thoughts on “Hold The Dark (Film) Review”
Saulnier’s two previous films were quite gripping, so we’ll have to give it a try!
I tried really hard to like this because I fucking love how atmospheric this film is, but I strongly feel you should not have to Google a film to understand the ending. And I honestly lol’d when Vernon stabbed that dude in the skull. After a certain point I think it outdid itself on the moodiness scale.
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Hahahaha I agree but I also admire the gumption to make a film and not give a fuck about explaining it to your audience in a way. So moody though!
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