Recently, Paste published a list of their 25 favorite horror films that are currently streaming on Netflix. Through the month of October, I will watch these films and post about them. This is the first of such posts.
Let me put it this way: Government. Contracted. Troll. Hunter. Apparently in Norway, giant trolls still exist. When they get too big for their foul-smelling loincloths, the government calls Hans (Otto Jespersen) the troll hunter. As his occupation technically doesn’t exist, he leads a lonely and thankless life from within the confines of a stinky camper. When a team of reporters who are covering a poaching story have Hans pegged as the notorious wildlife-hater, they follow him into the dark Norwegian woods (which are much scarier than American woods). Hans rescues them from a pissed-off three-headed troll, and just like that, his secret is out.
It’s a fun film to watch, especially when thinking of similar shaky-cam flicks like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. Where those films use the documentary style to drop hints about what is stalking the main characters, Troll Hunter is unashamed to show the Nordic menace that exists in the dark corners of Scandinavia.
As far as its placement on Paste’s list, this is a good showing for number 25. It deserves to be on a top 25 list, but only for the fact that it is a quality film with an unabashedly goofy premise.
Best Moment: Watching Hans blast a Mountain King with a ball of UV light and the subsequent crumbling of said Mountain King. Also, the Polish smugglers who plant dead bears in the woods to help cover up Norway’s troll problem were pretty hilarious.
This is the type of horror that is underused, which is too bad. A film in which six guys become stranded in the middle of an arctic wilderness while being pursued by wolves is much scarier than…pretty much anything that is currently showing in theatres. In addition to the terror of the situation, The Grey shows some serious filmmaking chops as it digs into the deep, dark places that plague the male mind.
When the film starts, and we see John Ottman (Liam Neeson) sharing the final moments of an arctic wolf that he has shot, as it’s his job to keep wolves from attacking the employees of this unspecified industrial site. From the get go, we see that Neeson is a man who is nurturing some deep emotional wounds—who else would take a job killing wolves? We see flashbacks of his wife, which get violently pulled away from him as reality comes crashing back into his mind.
And then there’s this plane crash.
Six men survive the crash, and are then pitted against the elements in order to survive. Among them, several aspects of the male movie archetype are present. There’s the hot-headed ex-con, the wiseass who talks incessantly to cope with anxiety, the level-headed scientist, and the father figure who just wants to see his kid again. As the wolves are quite literally at their door, the group of survivors becomes less like men and more like a rival pack, fighting for their right to survive.
Based on some of the films that I’ve already seen on Paste’s list, I think this one could be a bit higher. This was my first time watching The Grey, but damn was it a satisfying cinematic experience. I often find myself questioning Liam Neeson’s choice in acting jobs, but he was ideal for this part.
Best Moment: It’s a tie. First, the moment when we see the Alpha Male take one step into the survivor’s camp only to see the overly-macho ex-con take one step backwards—demonstrating that talk is beyond cheap when wolves are itching to rip out your throat. Second, the final seconds of the film. Ottman stares directly into the Alpha Wolf’s eyes as he tapes broken bottles and a hunting knife to his hands. He recites the only poem his father ever wrote as he lunges for the final confrontation. Effing epic.