The Last Winter: Review – Premiere Magazine

Posted on 03. May, 2010 by in Press, The Last Winter: Press

Premiere Magazine
The Last Winter

by Aaron Hillis
September 21, 2007

An indie auteur whose creative integrity is easy for cinephiles to get behind, actor-filmmaker Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) has become a sort of heir apparent to American horror mavericks like George Romero and Larry Cohen, in that each of his films — unlike the artless gore-fests that blight the genre today — is a richly drawn, ambitious character piece both socially relevant and genuinely suspenseful. Fessenden’s latest and most polished production to date presents a northern Alaska–set eco-cautionary terror tale, in which the villain might be a physical manifestation of an angry environment itself — is it that humans are actually the monsters and become a target of planetary vengeance for global warming?

Conservatives and Al Gore haters are seeing red now, but the only thing you shouldn’t be scared of is Fessenden’s progressive agenda, since both sides of this so-called partisan issue are fairly represented in the film’s complex humanizations. Isolated at an arctic outpost owned by Big Oil, an advance team exploring drilling potential is led by blowhard skipper Pollack (a pitch-perfect Perlman), a steadfast company man who is entirely irked by the presence of environmental impact surveyor Hoffman (an equally compelling Le Gros) — and not just because the latter has been shacking up with Pollack’s next-in-command Abby (Connie Britton). Manly clashes ensue, their dinnertime debates punctuated by iconic news footage: clips from the Exxon Valdez spill, the Kuwaiti oil fires, busy weathermen and the like, each image a talking point as if healthy chatter were enough to turn off this apocalypse-in-waiting. When the permafrost starts melting, ghostly winds kick up something fierce, and a crewmember turns up dead and naked in the snow, everyone begins succumbing to unseen forces (or is it their collective psychological breakdown?), and a wicked atmosphere of claustrophobia materializes through Fessenden’s cunning sense of widescreen spatiality: nightmarish empty corridors and elegantly swirling aerials ominously gazing down from the skies. This is filmmaking both gorgeous and deeply unsettling.

The inability to go home again is the inconvenient truth at the heart of Fessenden’s story, and his passion/frustration is so palpable that he nearly loses his footing by making the wrong thing literally tangible: the ambiguous enemy itself. The film offers the director’s first foray into CGI, but although it’s used sparingly, the last-act unearthing of an antlered, semi-transparent creature is diminishingly literal-minded in the same way the final shot is rightfully so: a confused and regretful survivor walks out into seasonably inexplicable rain, standing trembling beside a gas-guzzling SUV. It’s blunt, yes, but should an emotional message of worldwide alarm be anything less than so?

Copyright 2007 Premiere Magazine

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