Five friends are heading out into the mountains of Norway, as many of their countrymen do for their holidays, for a snowboarding trip. They have opted for the most remote part of the area they can find because there is, according to Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen), a great place to head for out here; as they drive to their destination they joke around, and new boyfriend and girlfriend Mikal (Endre Martin Midstigen) and Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) make out, much to the bemusement of their pals. When they reach their mountain, it's everything Eirik promised, but there's a snag: Morten Tobias (Rolf Kristian Larsen) isn't as skilled as he'd like to be and breaks his leg...
Uh-oh. A sizeable hit in its native Norway, Cold Prey, or Fritt vilt as it was originally known, was a traditional slasher horror given a Scandinavian twist, although most of that flavour was down to the bleak but beautiful landscape the story was set in. Otherwise, director Roar Uthaug and his writers relied on the more obvious formula of the genre, that was, get a group of young people into an isolated place and let loose a masked killer to pick them off one by one, but at least the clichés were presented with gusto with a willing cast to bring them to life.
The main setting for the mayhem is a nearby hotel where they quintet are forced to head when Morten Tobias injures himself and they cannot reach the car to transport him back to civilisation. This hotel is the next best thing until they can send someone out for help, so they all snuggle in for the night, having established that not only is there nobody around, but the building has been abandoned since the mid-seventies according to the guest book. All this is in the service of a very long buildup to the murders, which takes up nearly half the film, illustrating Uthaug's confidence that we will stay interested during that length of time.
And to a certain extent we do, even though we are only thrown scraps during that time to keep our anticipation bubbling away. Such scraps include a prologue that sees a young boy with a birthmark across one eye being chased into a crevasse - and yes it is significant we are not sure when that is supposed to have taken place - or something as unassuming as the front door being found ajar even though the characters are sure they left it closed. Yeah, I know it doesn't sound like much, but when it's paired with the obvious sympathy the filmmakers have with the potental victims, the effect does sustain the intrigue.
Not that the intrigue pays off in massively surprising ways, but there is a level of tension generated in that we're left wondering who will be next, if who we've seen die is really dead, and who will survive in the end. Bizarrely, there's a revelation in the final moments that is intended, one assumes, to have us feel sorry for the killer - even he is afforded a measure of sympathy along with the five good guys. Among them, Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), stands out as the most capable, acting as nurse to Morten Tobias and behaving as befits the sensible one, so again, no shocks to seeing where she ends up in the order of those bumped off. Uthaug doesn't rely on gory setpieces, preferring the suspense of a darkened corridor, and this is all to the good. It's not going to blow you away, but it's solid enough. Music by Magnus Beite.