One of the eeriest films of the year is an eco-horror meltdown from America’s reining auteur of existential fantastic filmmaking. Taking place at an oil-drilling compound deep in the lonely Arctic of Northern Alaska, The Last Winter opens with an advance team of technicians doing prep work on what is soon to become a work site. This will be the first time this part of the Arctic has been drilled into –- a move that concerns many environmentalists –- and tensions are high amongst the team, several of whom have more than mixed feelings about the project. Beyond that, something is very wrong about where the team is stationed. As a possible result of global warming, the permafrost is melting at an abnormal rate, releasing… something… into the atmosphere from deep within the earth. Something that has been buried for over 10,000 years, never having been privy to “the human experience,” but appearing to have an ability to alter it in terrifying and lethal ways. The technicians, already suffering from the slow-burn madness of isolation, begin to find their minds and bodies turning against them. The earth’s energy is fighting them on the deepest level, like an organism battling to protect itself from a virus. People start to die. Communications fail, further cutting the group off from the outside world. The oil camp slowly, unstoppably, drifts into wind-singed apocalypse.
The Last Winter is a visually breathtaking, wholly nightmarish ecological horror film that is smart, informed and frightening. When one of its protagonists questions whether the act of drilling for fossil fuel is any different from graverobbing, it’s impossible not to get shivers by the ramifications, nor is it a stretch when the oil team find themselves haunted, hunted and cursed for their actions. Award-winning writer/producer/editor Larry Fessenden continues on the unique path he’s carved for himself with such previous philosophically provocative quasi humanist horror features as No Telling, Habit and Wendigo . In a recent interview, the filmmaker stated: “I am interested in the way the mind processes disappointment, trauma and fear. Even in our most sophisticated state, we are still making sense of reality through mythological tropes.” Fessenden gets to explore these themes in deeply resonant ways, expanding them into a study of humankind’s inclinations towards self-destruction. Fronted by a steel-strong cast that includes Ron Perlman, James LeGros and Connie Britton, The Last Winter is a brilliant, blood-chilling must-see.
A footnote: Ecological responsibility has long been a concern of Fessenden’s. Back in 1992, the filmmaker co-wrote Low Impact Filmmaking: A Practical Guide To Environmentally Conscious Film Production, a book designed to help reduce wastefulness in the film business To this day, it remains the only publication of its kind. More recently, Fessenden created the hugely informative climate-change resource site RunningOutOfRoad.com, which, among its many news reports, offers many tips for greener, less destructive living. “Learn what’s at stake. Take a stand. Be outspoken. Know you tried.” In the end credits of The Last Winter, Fessenden opted to list the URL for this site instead of the one for his film. Few filmmakers have put their lifestyles where their mouths are to the degree that Larry Fessenden has done, and we strongly encourage you to check out his work beyond the universe of cinema.
“One of the major discoveries. Expertly conflates the psychological dread fundamental to the horror genre, broadening it out into a deeper, existential malaise about the disintegration of civilization” - Patrick McGavin, SCREEN DAILY
“***** - probably the closest an American director will ever come to making a Kyoshi Kurosawa movie” - Adam Nayman, EYE WEEKLY
“A horror movie with many inconvenient truths to tell about the ways in which we are willingly destroying our planet. Oh, and it’s also scary as fuck” - Scott Foundas, LA WEEKLY
Hosted by Writer/Director LARRY FESSENDEN
Director: Larry Fessenden
Screenplay: Larry Fessenden, Robert Leaver
Cast: Ron Perlman
Producers: Larry Fessenden, Jeanne Levy-Hinte, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Sigurjon Sighvatsson
Distributor: Antidote Films/Glass Eye Pix