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The Last Winter
cast: Ron Perlman, James Le Gros, Connie Britton, Kevin Corrigan, and Larry Fessenden

director: Larry Fessenden

101 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasadir Stuart
Ed Pollack runs a tight ship, or likes to think he does. The head of an advance team for a major oil firm, Pollack and his crew go out into the wilds, find oil and establish a beachhead for the company to begin drilling. He's good at his job, looks after his people and has a low-maintenance relationship with Abby, one of his team.

Or rather, he did. The arrival of Hoffman, a new team member leads Pollack to realise that Abby may have moved on from him. Even worse, Hoffman, and others, are seeing things out in the wild. Phantom herds of deer, something huge moving just beyond the range of sight and a growing feeling that there's something bigger going on, lead some team members to suspect that something awful is approaching. Something that threatens the entire world...

One of John Wyndham's most commonly, and criminally, overlooked books is The Kraken Wakes. A cleverly constructed story of alien invasion, where the aliens take over the Earth's oceans and effortlessly outmanoeuvre humanity, it's a story about the world ending just to the left of the main characters. Events are so big, so incalculably huge that no one can even begin to understand. It makes for an incredibly bleak, fragile story and the same effect is present in spades in The Last Winter.

Perlman is an effortlessly talented actor, one of those people whose work lifts whatever he's in, regardless of whether or not it deserves it. Here, I'm pleased to say, it is deserved and Perlman's bluff, pragmatic team boss is by turns an antagonistic and deeply sympathetic figure. In this, James LeGros and Connie Britton help him immensely. LeGros' Hoffman is a complete fish out of water, dropped into the centre of an established team and right into the middle of the relationship between Abby and Pollack. He's one of the first to begin to put together what's really going on and the conflict between him and Pollack, which arises as much through their different approaches to the country, and to Abby, as anything else, is subtly played and well handled.

Britton, likewise, is easily one of the most interesting actresses working today. A veteran of the excellent Spin City and with a memorable guest run on The West Wing under her belt, she's an effortlessly intelligent actress who brings an honesty and strength to her role. There's a scene towards the end of the film where Abby and Hoffman are communicating by radio that's very simple, little more than dialogue and heartbreaking to watch, thanks purely to Britton's reactions.

Larry Fessenden and Robert Leaver's script manages to echo both Wyndham's 'Kraken' and Carpenter's The Thing with its gradually increasing and oddly intimate menace. The final half hour in particular has no less than four genuinely skin crawling moments and the final scene is that most rare of beasts; frightening for what it doesn't show far more than what it does. Intelligent, subtle and well acted; The Last Winter is a quality piece of horror cinema. Well worth a look.

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