A well-crafted slasher pic with distinct local flavor, the original 2006 “Cold Prey” was a sleeper smash at the Norwegian box office. Sequel has become an outright phenom, breaking domestic-product records since its Oct. 10 release. If its predecessor was more or less “Halloween” in the snow, “Cold Prey II” quite blatantly apes 1981’s “Halloween II” — from its hospital setting to its workmanlike but more generic scare-machine flavor. As the original traveled much farther on DVD, offshore theatrical prospects for part deux look solid but limited; smallscreen sales should be robust.
Helmed by first-time feature director Mats Stenberg, who got a story credit on the earlier edition, pic picks up as traumatized Jannicke (Ingrid Borso Berdal) is found covered with blood — “not my own,” she says — and holding an icepick on a mountain road. She’s taken to a soon-to-be-shuttered local hospital with few staff or patients left. Authorities are dubious about her story of a monster slaying all her snowboarding friends at an abandoned ski lodge. Once they investigate the site, however, it’s clear a whole lotta killing has been going on. The corpses are brought in for autopsy, only (surprise!) one of them isn’t quite so dead.
“Prey II” resembles “Halloween II” in that its action starts immediately after the original ended; a vengefully tough heroine is heavily medicated by well-intentioned hospital staff, but rouses herself in time to put up a fight; and medicos become the primary targets for the revived unstoppable killing machine. Departing from rote slasher cliche, however, pic’s murders don’t commence until over a half-hour in, and characters are all likable — there are no designated jock jerks or sluts whose slaughter we’re encouraged to root for.
Still, there’s less attention paid to developing character this time around. And despite the unusually restrained 35-minute build-up before carnage occurs — a warmup riddled with effective false scares — “Cold Prey II” feels more routine than Roar Uthaug’s original. There’s scant surprise to who gets it and when, or to Jannicke’s summoning strength to protect a little boy (Vetle Qvenild Werring) who’s one of the hospital’s few remaining patients. Once again, the silent “mountain man” baddie (Robert Follin) is a little too generic (and oft-seen in plain sight) to stir mysterious charisma, with his raggedy Leatherface-goes-Aspen winter attire.
On the plus side, Anders Flatland’s widescreen lensing is as crisp as Daniel Voldheim’s prior job, peaked by spectacular mountain scenery both films should have exploited more. Perfs (with Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik as an intern who emerges as Jannicke’s fellow resilient heroine) are strong enough. Returning composer Magnus Beite, editor Jon Endre Mork and production designer Astrid Saetren all maintain “Cold Prey’s” taut aethetics, even as the script falls short.
Gore quotient is pretty low, tech package first-rate. Finale would seem to nail shut the door on further sequels, but as so many such prior franchises have suggested, it’s never-say-die until B.O. (not the monster) is proclaimed DOA.