EDIT 11/12/2015: CLICK HERE FOR FULL BLU-RAY REVIEW
Last Winter, The (2006) d. Larry Fessenden (USA)
Via his breakthrough films, Habit and Wendigo, NYC indie director Larry Fessenden fashioned multi-layered characters dealing with supernatural situations...subtly informing viewers what we’re really scared of. In his largest scale effort to date, he approaches a much broader and overtly political canvas (that of global warming). Unfortunately, by placing the fate of the Earth itself center stage, his usually reliable storytelling techniques lose some of their potency.
Teaming up with first-time screenwriter Robert Leaver doesn’t help the cause much either, as the dramatis personae populating Fessenden’s remote Alaskan tundra outpost are thinly drawn – sometimes doggedly so, such as Ron Perlman’s unswervingly villainous big-company oil scout, all gruff and bluster from the get-go.
James Le Gros fares slightly better as high profile environmental scientist, and his relationship with oil company rep Connie Britton provides some subtle shading, but the rest of the cast work as barely more than plot points.
That said, there is an admirable amount of haunting gloom and dread pervading the entire picture, aided immeasurably by Jeff Grace's score, and when the lights go out and the monsters come – oh yes, there are monsters – the writer/producer/director/editor (who also shows up briefly onscreen as a doomed oil honcho) expertly taps into the isolation and desperation of the human condition.
Overall, The Last Winter lacks the emotional wallop of previous efforts, but there is no denying Fessenden’s status as the thinking-fan’s horror auteur.
As with all of Glass Eye Pix's features, there is a generous amount of behind-the-scenes intel provided, including an informative and candid audio commentary track by Fessenden and two hours of making-of materials that make the Weinstein Company's DVD well worth picking up.