Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Wolf in His Hurry Swallowed Her Alive

I suppose it would have been too on the nose to have named anybody Peter in Hold the Dark, even though once you think of it it's hard to think of anything but "Peter and the Wolf" while you're watching it. Like that this is a fable about living beside wild things and trying to out-smart them only to discover that heart, not smarts, are where it's at. Saving everybody's got a real mean price.

Jeffrey Wright plays Russell, an author who told his haunting tale of his encounter hunting a female wolf one time, and that tale now comes back to bite him in the you-know-where when a young woman named Medora (Riley Keough) in rural Alaska beckons him to come find the wolf that carried away her son. Medora says she doesn't expect her son to be alive singing in the wolf's belly or anything - she wants revenge. A mother's right. It's when Papa (Alexander Skarsgard) comes home from the war that the other shoes, make that the snow-boots, start dropping.

The strange tale that director Jeremy Saulnier and writer Macon Blair (the duo behind Green Room and Blue Ruin) unspool from that set-up is indeed strange, and in fits and starts as good as anything Saulnier's done before, which is to say very. There's a mid-film show-down that gooses to Saulnier's strengths, an act of boxed-in riot and violence beautifully and savagely set in bright-day wide-open-spaces that are nonetheless not bright or wide enough. And there's an especially unsettling little scene that stars Blair himself - he went and wrote himself the best scene! 

But there's also a lot of mystical whatsits and hullabaloo that the film never really gets a hold on - the land of the midnight sun, weaving its starry-eyed spell of ancient superstitions and native creatures, turns a bit to mush. Skarsgard, all thirty feet of Scandinavian meat of him, skulks well, but all the self-serious skulking him and Jeffrey Wright do at each other begins to at times feel a goof, especially slapped up against the ill-explained mythologizing. It's a lot of hot air making a puddle in the end. 

Hold the Dark drops on Netflix tomorrow.
Here's the trailer again:


1 comment:

Aquinas1220 said...

I was extremely disappointed in this mess of a film