North Industries are looking into drilling for oil in a remote part of Northern Alaska, and to that end send a group of investigators and researchers to an encampment in the middle of nowhere to find out more. When Ed Pollack (Ron Perlman) arrives, he is pleased to see his team - the ones he recognises at any rate, as there are a couple of new faces there. One of them belongs to scientist James Hoffman (James Le Gros), who he can tell he's not going to get along with. Hoffman is an environmentalist, and Pollack wants to drill for as much oil as possible, but there's more to the situation than meets the eye as dark forces begin to threaten them...
...but only vaguely, as director, producer, editor and writer (with Robert Leaver) Larry Fessenden keeps his cards close to his chest in this low key horror which more nearly resembles an H.P. Lovecraft adventure movie. Sort of. What The Last Winter has going for it is its atmosphere, helped no end by its setting, filmed in an appropriately bleak Icelandic landscape. Don't expect much in the way of non-stop action and thrills, as this is very deliberately paced which could either build up tension in the viewer, or make them impatient for the big setpieces.
They do arrive, but first we must meet our characters, one of whom, Maxwell (Zach Gilford), seems to be taking a funny turn due to some pressure arising from the surroundings, and it isn't oil pressure. There's also ill-feeling between Pollack and Hoffman because Hoffman is bedding Abby Sellers (Connie Britton) and Pollack is jealous to some extent, but all these grumblings will come to nothing when they realise that something big is brewing out there. Maxwell is so obsessed that he wanders out naked into the snow and disappears, the first casualty but not the last.
There are plenty of post-apocalyptic films, but not many pre-apocalyptic ones, but what The Last Winter appears to be heading towards is a massive devastation which we never see. Hoffman twigs that there's some kind of revolt of nature happening, a bit like in those seventies horror movies, but his fellows are more concerned with planes crashing into their base and the radios not working so they can't send for help. The final scenes introduce computer effects which is a little unnecessary, but they're sparingly utilised, and the end result is a man vs his environment tale that Fessenden has created out of well chosen locations and a reliable cast. It's like John Carpenter's The Thing (must be the snow) with an enemy from without rather than within, and as far as that goes it succeeds to the extent it could be called underrated with some validity. It may have been unfashionable for its day, but that need not be a drawback. Music by Jeff Grace.