I rarely expect to enjoy watching a sequel when I haven't seen the original film. When we're talking about a series of slasher films, those expectations sink just a little bit lower. It's not that I hate slashers; quite the opposite. I just haven't seen anything terribly encouraging from the genre in recent times. Well, I guess I just wasn't looking in the right places because Norwegian director Mats Stenberg takes my preconceived notions and blows them to smithereens with his 2008 slasher Cold Prey II (aka Fritt Vilt II).
Despite being a direct sequel to 2006's Cold Prey, screenwriter Thomas Moldestad's story has the decency to start by giving newbies to the series (like myself) a few new characters to latch on to. We're introduced to Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik), a doctor at a remote hospital that is due to be closed down in a few days. It's just as well because Camilla just got a tempting job offer in the city. The only question is whether her outdoorsy boyfriend Ole (Kim Wifladt) will gladly follow her there or not. Before they have too much of an opportunity to explore relationship woes, Ole is called off to look into an abandoned car. When he arrives at the scene, he finds Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsų Berdal) roaming the icy roads in a daze. She's covered in blood which she bluntly declares is not her own.
As soon as Jannicke enters the film we have our connection back to Cold Prey. In that film Jannicke barely survived the murderous rampage of a killer who claimed the lives of her friends (including her boyfriend). When the cops verify her story by retrieving the bodies of her friends and the killer (who Jannicke put down), they initiate an unfortunate series of events. You see, even though the killer looks dead and doesn't seem to have a pulse, he is very much alive which comes as a rude surprise to the medical examiner in the morgue. Now Jannicke is trapped in the hospital with its staff and the seemingly resurrected killer while a snowstorm rages on outside. Something tells me the big bad man with the axe wants another shot at the one who got away...everyone else is gravy.
You don't have to squint too hard to see the kinship between this film and Halloween II. The lone survivor of the first film being stalked in a hospital setting by an unstoppable killer...it's all there. Heck, we even get a Dr. Loomis analogue here who helpfully provides some information regarding the killer's origins which are incredibly creepy. I'm pointing out these similarities merely to highlight the fact that Stenberg and Moldestad have a real appreciation for the sandbox that they are playing in. You don't have to turn the genre on its head in order to impress a horror fan. You just have to approach it with honesty and affection. Everybody involved with Cold Prey II seems to get this because the film really is a fun throwback that pays homage while establishing an identity of its own.
Although the stalk and slash sequences aren't as drawn out as some may like, the kills are viscerally brutal while avoiding being outright gory. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of the red stuff to be found here. It's just not as gratuitous as it possibly could be. I count that as a positive because I'd rather filmmakers spend their time crafting genuine scares rather than obsessing over hyper-detailed vivisections of the human anatomy.
It's also worth noting that although the killer is a hulking axe-wielding bruiser, he doesn't seem to have any special abilities beyond that. Sure, he doesn't know how to stay down after he's been killed dead but that's all slasher baddies right? I'm talking about the way he just roams the hospital killing people without any major tricks up his sleeve. In the post-Saw era where horror movie villains always have a master plan and stay ten steps ahead of everyone else, this brute's shambling ways are a breath of fresh air.
The cast more than hold their own although Berdal and Rovik are clearly the standouts. Berdal offers up a stunning blend of fear and determination as Jannicke deals with her recent trauma while trying to figure out a way to kill something that she already thought dead. Rovik is the less rough and tumble of the two leads but adds a softness to the proceedings while making a strong case for more movies featuring Final Girls. When all is bled and done, Cold Prey II stands as a very strong entry into the slasher genre. If you've already seen the first film then I don't see how you could be disappointed by the sequel. If you haven't seen the first one either then it looks like you have a one-two punch of horror goodness waiting for you. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go track down Cold Prey and enjoy this series the way it was intended.