The best horror movies are structured around our most dreaded fears in real life, whether personal or collective, as opposed to the generic terror tactic variety. Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter falls into that prior category, a kind of eco-supernatural dreamscape companion piece to Al Gore cautionary doc, An Incovenient Truth. It’s also a thinking man’s sub-Arctic chiller in more ways than one, with a turbulent character-driven indie soul.
A US/Icelandic co-production, The Last Winter deftly mixes political strife, corporate greed, apocalyptic environmental terror, prehistoric occult vengeance, and heated sexual rivalries playing out on frozen turf. These simmering antagonisms unfold on a bleak stretch of frigid Alaskan landscape, where a team of mutually suspicious corporate oil drillers, government reps and environmentalists are tossed together. The bureaucrats and corporate shills are in some sort of collusion as pathfinders for new pipeline and drill sites, with the eco-idealists invited along for the ride to misleadingly keep up appearances of concern for the environment.
Ron Perlman is the hot headed leader of the team, and he balks at abandoning the site when creepy things start to happen. Crew members who start to freak out when encountering startling visions out on the ice, are dismissed as heavy drinkers, or just too ‘twilight zone’ to take seriously. One unfortunate environmentalist who leaves a notebook behind after mysteriously disappearing, insists that nature like any organism can rise out of the ground and take revenge on the human race disturbing, depleting and destroying the earth. Hunches are raised about the ghosts of decomposed animals and fossils that are the primary ingredients of the oil, reincarnated as ghoulish monsters for a little payback.
The logic of these explanations that follow on the heels of assorted mayhem, range from strange to silly in the context of the very real dilemmas we face around global warming, and the pace of foreboding events in the story unravels far too slowly. But the essential impact of a planet spinning out of control at the hands of indifferent humans, more than makes its prophetically horrific point in this story.
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: The Making of The Last Winter: Feature Length Documentary; Deleted scenes; Interview With Director Larry Fessenden; Director Commentary; Theatrical Trailers.