Hold the Dark (2018)


Human in wolf’s clothing.

Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is a wolf expert who thinks that he has been through it all. However, when he’s called to an Alaskan village to help search for a little boy who may have been garbled up by the local wolves, he is thrown for a loop. For one, the mother who calls him up, Medora (Riley Keough), is already a bit strange and creeps him it out initially. Then, the situation gets creepier when the husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård), shows up and starts causing all types of violence. But why is that? Does it have something to do with his PTSD? The fact that his kid is gone? Or something deeper, darker and much more creepy? With local cop Donald (James Badge Dale), Russell is ready and equipped to find out. However, he may have to get his hands very, very dirty.

And bloody. As if that wasn’t already assumed.

Damn, daddy.

Hold the Dark is the latest from Jeremy Saulnier and you can already tell that the more movies he makes, the more interesting he gets. While this is definitely a step down from his last two flicks (Green Room, Blue Ruin), there’s something still interesting and compelling about Hold the Dark that makes it a worthwhile experience. It’s dark, mean, upsetting, and generally tense, but there’s not much of a payoff, no real point, not many interesting characters, and a general sense that this is supposed to all mean something, yet for some reason, doesn’t.

So is it worth watching, especially on Netflix? Most likely, yeah. Saulnier is superb at creating a certain mood that’s uneasy and scary, as if something violently awful could happen, at literally anytime. In Hold the Dark, that’s especially true, with long moments of absolute silence, then being interrupted by a hail of gunfire, or a loud screech somewhere far out in the distance. It’s hard to classify Hold the Dark, honestly, as it’s somewhere close to a supernatural-horror flick, yet at the same time, still has a lot of natural crime-thriller elements, too.

So basically, it’s just a thriller, with dark and scary intentions, eh?

Yeah, let’s go with that.

Love the wolf, look like the wolf, they said.

But like I said before, there’s something off about Hold the Dark that, when it comes time for the plot to take a backseat to the characters, their lives, dilemmas, and what led them to this moment in time, it gets surprisingly uninteresting. Most of this has to do with the fact that we’re introduced to them for a few moments before they start shooting and killing, but another part of that has to do with the fact that Saulnier may not be all that interested in exploring these people at all, really.

Wright’s Core (great band name, by the way) should be the most interesting cat here, with a weird hobby and an even weirder taste for the eerier and sensational, yet, aside from some back-talk about his kid, there’s not much too him. He just loves those wolves and is disturbed by them, at the same time. Even Skarsgard’s Vernon (not a great band name, by the way) feels like he’s just too dark and mysterious to be taken as a serious character, or better yet, person. The one who comes incredibly close and actually succeeds is James Badge Dale, giving you a reason to care for his character and also wondering just why the hell the dude isn’t a big enough star already.

Like, seriously. Why, Hollywood?

Consensus: Dark, dreary, disturbing, and oh yeah, creepy, Hold the Dark works by setting a pace and mood, but when it comes to the real stuff that matters, like plot, or characters, it’s a little too ho-hum for its own good.

6.5 / 10

Scientology? No, wait. Satanists? I don’t know. Color me confused.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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One comment

  1. I disagree that it’s a little “ho hum”, I thought it was fantastic, and appreciated that not every character needed to be so solidly fleshed out. Slow burn storytelling, even a story as mean as this one, can captivate without unwrapping all its superstructure, although I do agree that the exploration of motivation is something the film fails at. I gave it a higher score than you did, but I can see where you’re coming from.

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