[Content warning: this review discusses sexual assault and violence.]
With the new feature that automatically plays trailers on the Netflix homepage, the platform is able to hype up its new releases without the user even clicking on the title. One of those films that played a trailer backed by ominous music was the Netflix original, “Hold the Dark,” released on Sept. 22.
I’m a cautiously optimistic horror film lover – nothing too gory and bloody, but I appreciate a good mystery. “Hold the Dark” seemed to encapsulate what I enjoy in horror and suspense films, so I fell into the Netflix trailer trap.
And, oh boy, do I regret it.
Set in the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, the main character, Russell Core, played by Jeffrey Wright, is summoned to a small town by the written pleas of F Slone, played by Riley Keough. Her son Bailey, played by Beckham Crawford, has gone missing, presumably taken by wolves living in the outskirts of the town, as three other children have gone missing in that fashion. She begs Core to find her son and kill the wolves.
At first, it seems the film is attempting to create an anti-hero with the character Vernon Slone, played by Alexander Skarsgård, but that setup is quickly destroyed. His character’s storyline begins during his deployment in the Iraq War and the audience is subjected to the violence of war as well as a graphic assault on a young woman, which subsequently has no bearing on the plot.
And that’s where the coherent plot ends. None of the above in fact are spoilers because all of those details are revealed in the trailer released by Netflix, which was the first mistake.
Director Jeremy Saulnier attempts to morph the film into an interwoven story with a cult and ritualistic killings. The film fails dramatically in its attempts to ground itself in the symbolism of wolves as they pertain to tribal ceremony – providing a cringe-worthy and offensive portrayal of one of the only indigenous characters in the film.
As I sat through the two hours and five minutes of the film, I waited for the plot to finally connect and it just … didn’t.
Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the film was the child Bailey, as he embodied the creepy stereotypes of the pale, sallow child. However, he has approximately four lines throughout the entire film.
The film as a whole failed to deliver any of the qualities I look for in the medium – developed characters, a coherent plot, compelling story line, and a satisfying ending. The film simply creates all these questions it fails to answer, and not in an entertaining way.
If you’re watching the film and holding out for a satisfying moment, you won’t get it.
“Hold the Dark?” More like, stop the film, please.