The Last Winter Reviews
Not bad but not developed enough to be really good.
Bonus points however for Jeff Grace who turns out a great score.
If you need a "small team lost in the snow surrounded by supernatural/alien creatures" movie, this has that. The creatures aren't impressive, but some of the acting hits stride at moments.
But surprise! The Last Winter is a fine film. Not a very strong genre effort, as the movie is pretty thin on the scares until its last 15 or 20 minutes, but it is observant and intelligently written. One may view the environmental messages as a bit heavy, but I looked at them as an allegory for the apocalypse, which is a concept this film deals with very uniquely. Fessenden trusts his viewers' intelligence here, leaving room for implication but providing plenty of compelling narrative bits to nibble on as well. The acting is solid and the characters are fascinatingly restrained - emotional exposition is much more controlled than it was in Wendigo, which was stuffed ad nauseam with HAPPY FAMILY FOOTAGE to better underline the upcoming tragedy.
I think The Last Winter loses a lot of ground with some really fake-looking animal ghosts which were supposed to be spooky but instead took me out of the movie. I know that it's a limitation of the budget, but this movie gave me enough faith in Fessenden's abilities that he could have developed something not as visual. Sure, nature had to strike back somehow, but did it have to do it with shitty CGI deer?
You can miss this one, a fail.
But then there's the last 10 minutes that slap you with a large lame stick and leave a bad bruise. If that ending was not in, this film would be considerably better.
Consider the next to final scene, when the reality of what has been happening is revealed. A lot of it is filmed from 1st person POV which then cuts to a similar shot that took place decades ago and has no relation whatsoever to what is currently happening and everything to do with who it is currently happening to. The transition is not jarring, but natural and oddly affecting. The combination of music, tone and the artistry behind the combination of shots makes it work beautifully. A lesser filmmaker's attempt might have resulted in "pretension" (that most odious of words) but Fessenden, whose films are composed of precisely such moments, posesses a deep understanding of the language of film. He is proudly a genre filmmaker but one who does not limit himself by genre trappings, but by his own imagination (and, admitedly, budget).
"The Last Winter" is not a very good film, certainly nowhere near as good as his "Wendigo". Its screenplay is a complete mess, the editing during the first third is all over the place and the characters contradict eachother and even themselves. Yet...the film is so atmospheric, desolate and peppered with small moments of beauty that it is almost worth watching. Even within its confused and confusing screenplay there are scenes that are so clearly allegorical (a particular exchange between two characters is clearly meant to represent the two opposing views by scientists and fundies on climate change in US culture, their arguments and their reality, for example) that with more consistent writing we could have wound up with something special. What we have is what we have, however, and while it is not exactly good it is certainly further confirmation that Fessenden is the real deal.
Alot of very good things going on, including some pretty decent acting from an under the radar cast, a good script, and some excellent plot building and creepy feel. The tension is palpable, and it is impossible to not feel a building sense of dread.
A couple of definite scary moments highlight this sense of dread (one scene involving a playback of found footage is terrific, and I had to rewind and watch it again), but for the most part, it rides on this aura without delivering a definitive moment. This is where the film withers a bit, because it just doesn't deliver on this front. The mysterious 'force' or 'creature' or whatever it is is just not cool.
The film definitely beats you over the head with a message that (while true) is certainly not tactful. The first half of the run time is superior to the second, as the middle act hits a major lull. Picks back up again in the third, but again, fails to deliver a passable climax. A well executed film with alot of positive aspects and aura, but can't quite pass the boundary of 'good'.