An oil team is drilling in the Northern Arctic. When the weather starts to change and some members of the team start to see visions, things start to spiral out of control.
The Last Winter calls itself an environmental horror film. There is one point in the film where a character explains that oil is actually composed of dead animals and plants. What results is a horror flick that transposes the atmosphere of John Carpenter’s The Thing with a Poltergeist storyline. The film also adds in touches of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and what results is a claustrophobic ghost story in the Arctic North.
A team of oil workers, led by Ed Pollack (Perlman), work in the Northern Arctic. Ed wants to get trucks in, regardless of what damage they do to the land. Unfortunately, the weather is very erratic (global warming, don’t ya know) and the roads are not stable enough to get the trucks there. Among the group of oil workers is a young guy struggling to fit in named Maxwell (Gilford) who has begun to see strange things, among them a herd of what looks like a ghostly stampede.
The commentary this movie makes is that we have raped the land for so long it is now beginning to fight back. Smartly, director Larry Fessenden structures the movie so it is really unclear if there are any supernatural activities at all. The film starts to play out like The Shining, as each of the team members seem to be suffering from a mental breakdown due to the isolation. Just as Jack Torrance went crazy and tried to kill his family in the Stephen King classic, the members of this team seemed to be losing control of their mental facilities as well.
James Hoffman, an environmentalist sent to be a watchdog over the team, is keeping a detailed journal that makes it seem he is losing his grasp on reality. Maxwell takes to walking around in very little clothing mumbling about creatures in the distance. Elliott, another environmentalist, begins to develop severe nose bleeds. Even Ed, who never sees any supernatural beings, starts to wet his bed. With all this abnormality, it is not clear if the ghostly creatures even exist.
All the acting is solid, with Perlman delivering his normal solid character acting. There is not really a weak link in the cast unless you drop down to the very lowest of characters. The directing is solid, and you can see a strong influence from John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick. Fessenden is a solid talent, who looks to be taking the chance he was given and running with it. The CGI is a little shaky. The gore effects are done well, although some of the corpses look like mannequins. However, the falling snow is a little indie looking and could have used a little more work.
The basis of the movie is about preaching the dangers of global warming. It’s a nice message, but I don’t think the movie is successful if it was meant to open anyone’s eyes. It is just another psychological horror movie with the possibility of monsters. When the “monsters” come they are a disappointment but if they are, as the director himself describes them, grim reapers coming to collect souls, they work. I also complain about the ending, which was lifted straight out of movies such as Resident Evil and Ghosts of Mars, two movies that shouldn’t be used as influences. The end, while it leaves the conclusion open to your judgment (what does she see?), is also a letdown after what came before.
Taken as a hybrid of The Thing and The Shining, I think it works well. It just never reaches the heights I believe the director intended.
There is an audio commentary that is equal parts creepy and funny. The dialect makes me think Fessenden is just as strange as his movies, but he is also very self depreciating, mentioning that his former film Wendigo hurt his career more than it ever helped it.
Making the Last Winter is a feature length documentary (2 hours long) that details everyting you could ever want to know about the makng of this movie. Between the commentary and this feature, the extras are all you could ever need for a feature like this.