It's rare that a sequel can compare in quality to the original that spawned it, especially in horror movies. Such great films as Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist were all followed by less than stellar films. But Norwegian slasher Cold Prey II a/k/a Fritt Vilt II is up to the task, easily equaling, and perhaps improving upon, the original.
Cold Prey II starts up exactly where the original left off. Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) has survived the attacks of the mad killer who has slain all of her friends, but she's still stranded in the icy wilderness. Luckily, she's picked up by Ole (Kim Wifladt), and taken back to the hospital where his girlfriend Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik) is a resident. The hospital is scheduled to be closed down in a few days, and so is running on a skeleton crew, with only a few patients.
The police go to investigate Jannicke's claims about the killer, whose body lies at the bottom of a deep crevasse on the glacier, along with her friends. They bring the bodies back, and discover that the killer, though grievously wounded, isn't dead. This, needless to say, disturbs Jannicke greatly, and in her efforts to kill the killer, who is being revived by doctors, she tussles with a policeman, breaking his nose, resulting in her being sedated and tied to her bed.
A lonely hospital, lightly staffed. A blizzard blowing outside. A killer thought dead revived. Of course, as fans of horror films know, this will not end well. And while in many ways, Cold Prey II is standard implacable killer / slasher fare, it's so exceptionally well done that we don't mind. Director Mats Stenberg keeps the tension slowly rising throughout, ratcheting up the stress in tiny increments, but never letting up. A few jump scares and bits of humor here and there make it interesting, and keep the audience on its toes, never knowing quite what to expect. The killer's backstory is explored a bit more than in the original as well, with some details on his birth and upbringing, but not in an obtrusive or jarring way. It all fits together quite organically.
There's a lot to praise in the film, and little to criticize. The performances are great, beginning with Berdal's. Her half crazed, twitchy, damaged, but still very sweet and caring persona is aided tremendously by the subtle yet devastatingly effective makeup, giving her haunted eyes and a hunted soul. The film understands what it is and isn't, and doesn't try anything fancy or flashy. There isn't a lot of experimentation going on, just executing a slasher film to perfection. The slow pans, intermixed with sudden jump cuts, keep the audience always just a little unsettled. The design is stylish and moody, helping to maintain the atmosphere of disquietude. The blood and gore effects are top quality, with some fun kills. The killer is formidable, and thankfully does not have the clichéd omniscience that plagues so many inferior horror movie killers. And the protagonists, essentially it's Jannicke and Camilla who do all the heavy lifting hero-wise, are likeable, relatable, and most importantly believable. They react like actual humans react, as viewers might imagine themselves reacting. And we invest in them emotionally, and want them to succeed, and survive the night.
Cold Prey II is an excellent slasher film, and manages to execute so well that it nearly transcends the form. There's a lot here to please the genre fans, and it should be enjoyable for those less invested in horror as well. Highly recommended.
Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks pretty good, though it's not as nice as it could be. There's a fair bit of grain, and the image looks muddy at times. But otherwise, it's bright and warm, or dark and muted, as needed.
Audio is Dolby digital 5.1 channel Norwegian, and sounds really good. Small sounds and half heard whispers play a big part in the effectiveness of films like this, and here they are subtle and nuanced, and the bass thrums impressively when called for. The dialogue is always clearly audible (though that's not really an issue for non-Norwegian speakers) and no hiss or other issue can be heard. English subtitles are included, but no alternate language tracks.
There are (disappointingly) only a couple extras included. They are:
At just over two minutes, this trailer doesn't over-reveal, and gives a good feel for the film. Very cool.
This is seven and a half minutes of deleted or extended scenes. It seems to be mostly just slightly longer versions of scenes in the film. **PLEASE NOTE: A reader has informed us that the retail version is lacking the deleted scenes extra, so be aware that your DVD might vary slightly from what is detailed here. We're looking into it and will update this review when we know more.
Cold Prey II is a back to basics slasher / thriller, and it performs in that time honored genre very well. It grips the viewer early on, and never lets up on the pressure. The killer is appropriately menacing, and the heroines are appropriately plucky, all the while remaining human and relatable. And it's a lot of fun. Check it out.