Enviro-horror is making its move.
Different than your typical natural disaster flick - perhaps a spin-off -, this new breed of fright movie gives mother nature a plotting conscience and a tad of wily judgment. Humans aren't just the hapless victims anymore, we are the culprits. We are to hail storms and tsunamis what the Elm Street lynch mob was to the wrath of Freddy Krueger.
M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, and the upcoming Christmas release The Day the Earth Stood Still are wearing their messages on their sleeves and leading the charge for Hollywood's branch of enviro-horror, but it was Larry Fessenden's festival-to-video The Last Winter that kicked this trend off. Tapping into the paranoia of our current global warming end-of-days mindset, The Last Winter piles on the white-as-the-snow guilt with a deliberate, stiff finger poke in the eye of the viewers chest.
As you can imagine, it all comes off a bit-heavy handed. The film begins with a commercial for North, the American energy company that's been granted drilling rights to ANWR. Ron Perleman plays Pollack, the bigfoot industrialist who pisses on tundra and rapes the land of its sacred resources. (A colleague ponders the thievery behind fossil fuel exploration because it is the essence of life that came before us that we are turning into capitalistic energy ... I farted during this part).
Pollack is countered by Hoffman (James LeGros), the cuddly, bearded environmentalist who feels so deeply that when he scribbles global warming free verse in his notebook about "our last winter", visions of oil spills, hurricanes, and Leo DiCaprio dance in his head. He keeps it real , though. So real that he gets pussy from the articles he writes, like the one entitled The Real Cost of Oil for an Ivy League journal (the head shot printed next to the copy shows tha professah clean shaven and in black turtle neck).
Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) has always held a skilled hand at maintaining a meditative tone that keeps the viewer peeled while nothing too extraordinary takes place on the screen. Part of Fessenden's charm is that his work seems largely untouched by modern cinematic techniques. Yet, in The Last Winter, it all gets a little ridiculous when dinosaur spirits start appearing and a native American scientist stares into the camera like that crying Indian from the 1970's anti-littering PSA.
In twenty years, I suspect our kids will look back at movies like this the way we did 1950's radiation-horror films like Tarantula or Beginning of the End. At least ... I hope so.