Friday, 26 July 2013


In 2006 Roar Uthaug took us on an unnerving journey into the heart of fear. Cold Prey wasn’t just a slasher movie; it was pretty much the perfect slasher movie. Beautiful cinematography and relentless scares combined to create one of the smartest horror movies of the year.

Uthaug returned as co-writer – along with regular collaborator Thomas Moldestad – for the highly anticipated sequel, a follow up that delivered on almost every level. Moldestad isn’t the only regular returning to the fold; scream queen Ingrid Bolso Berdal (Cold Prey’s femme fatale) takes centre stage in the short but sweet action thriller, Escape.

Ten years after the Black Plague ravaged their country, a poor family sets out on a journey to find a new home. On a remote mountain pass they are attacked by a band of vicious thugs, led by the devilishly devious Dagmar (Berdal). Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen), a young girl now haunted by the murder of her brother, is the only person left alive.

At the gangs camp she discovers that she’s not alone. Another child called Frigg (Milla Olin) has also been kidnapped, and it’s here that she learns of their fate. Signe has one chance of survival, she must try to escape, but Dagmar and her merciless men aren’t about to let her go that easily.

At its core, Escape is a stripped back action thriller, but we also find ourselves in survival horror territory, a chase movie that replaces axe-wielding madmen with bows, arrows and spears. Escape is set in a disease-ridden medieval world, minimalistic but beautifully captured on screen. You can thank cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund for that, not to mention the stunning Norwegian landscape.

Every twist is set up meticulously, foreshadowing the chase sequence that lies ahead. Uthaug stages these scenes competently enough but there’s too much precision at times, and without the element of surprise the action sequences aren’t as engaging as they ought to be. A little more depth would have created more sympathy for both our leads, but because Escape barely pauses for breath, the paint-by-numbers framework lessens the impact of underlying tension.

At just under 76 minutes there’s not a lot of room for character development either, but credit to Moldestad for constructing effective – albeit hasty – backstory that provide our leading ladies with the motivation they need. The relationship between Dagmar and her top henchman would have benefited from room to breathe because the onscreen chemistry leaves you wanting more, and the same can be said for Frigg, whose unexplored backstory could have been fleshed out to greater effect.

Two strong performances tip the scales back in Escape’s favour, as do the beautiful landscape and a suitably haunting score. Uthaug might not be firing on all cylinders with this one but he’s still a class act, and there’s just enough here to warrant your full attention. There’s a chance this latest Norwegian thriller will be a little too shallow for some, but Escape remains a captivating experience, despite the fact that a little more depth could have resulted in a genre classic.

Escape marks a return to survival horror that’s enjoyable but lightweight, intriguing if not entirely essential. An action packed thriller that both underwhelms and excites, that packs a punch but fails to land the fatal blow. The latest thrill-ride from the creators of the Cold Prey series leaves you wanting more but not always for the right reasons, so lets just hope it’s not the last we see from such a winning team. AW

No comments:

Post a Comment