This move has me uncomfortably confused. There are parts I liked, in fact parts I loved. But as a whole, I’m not even sure what the hell I just watched or how this script got made. The 2018 Netflix Original movie, directed by Jeremy Saulnier, is based on a book with the same name. I haven’t read the book but to be honest I kind of want to now. This is a weird psychological thriller will some of the best tension, dialogue, and cinematography I’ve seen in a streaming service original. The problem is that none of the things I liked made any sense being in this movie.
The advertisement for the movie tells the audience that a woman’s child was taken by wolves. She contacts Russell Core, played by Jefferey Wright, a man who wrote about his true life story of hunting and killing a wolf. The woman, played by Riley Keough, wants this man to hunt and kill the wolf that took and killed her son in some way to get some closure before her husband returns from Iraq. Vernon Slone, a war vet with some serious issues, is played by the magical Alexander Skarsgard. That is literally all we know going into the movie. Other than that, we are given tons of creepy shots, vague hints at horror elements, and blood. To be honest, that is the whole movie. This honestly feels like no one knew what film they were making. Or perhaps there were three different scripts being written and they just took the best elements from each one without caring if it made sense. The weird thing is, it almost worked.
We have three different movies going on, which could have been good on their own. First there is Russell Core. I just want to say I’m glad to see this actor get more work. He is one of the best parts of Westworld and deserves some recognition. He really delivers in this movie. Russell is a beaten down old man who has a weirdly unhealthy obsession with wolves. He has issues with his daughter, but its never actually established properly. His character is put into this plot for almost no reason, and stays because of…. plot? I like his character and what he goes through, but this was the wrong story for him. The second movie stars a cop, played by James Dale, representing the white man and civilization. There is a good amount dedicated to the indigenous people in Alaska and how they are treated like shit, left to die out in the small towns far from the concerns of the cops. Julian Black Antelope plays Cheeon, the best friend of Vernon Slone. His child was also taken by wolves. The cops pretend to care but don’t. One of the best scenes in the entire movie involves these two characters in a very high tension moment resulting in absolute bloody chaos. But they still aren’t the best part of the movie, and as good as that scene was, I would easily sacrifice it in order to have the rest of the movie fleshed out.
Alexander Skarsgard is a great actor. I didn’t get into True Blood, but I’ve loved him in everything he has done. This movie should have just been about his character. I really don’t even want to get into too many plot details here because his story is the best. Let me just give you this, he is a semi stable guy who goes to war and becomes a killing machine. Literally his introduction is just murdering people in war. He comes home to find out his son was killed. The cops don’t give a shit, not really. This dude loses his fucking mind. His descent into madness should have just been the entire focus of the movie. I would love to have seen something that was just a ‘Halloween Micheal Myers’ style murderer with military training. The dude is an absolute savage. He’s terrifying in almost every scene, people know they’re dead just by being around him. His performance is so menacing. What’s unfortunate however, I feel we don’t get to see him all that often. So much of the movie is taken up by pointless scenes that have no value other than character development. This is a really long movie, over two hours, you would think there would be enough time to make sense of all the moving pieces of this story.
I went in thinking this would be a paranormal horror film. Turns out it was more of a mystery murder thriller. There’s a few major parts that really scratch my head, but just as many moments that really sucked me in and made me want more. I take no pleasure Snapping this movie out of existence because I feel like there is some real quality here. I wouldn’t be against a spin-off/sequel where they focus on the key elements and cut the fat. If you choose to embark on this strange tale, turn off the lights, watch it with a friend, and remember that wolves aren’t the most dangerous animals in the wild…. it’s, it’s man. Humans are dangerous… I think that was the point of this whole thing.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith