Embracing the darkness
Hold The Dark sees director Jeremy Saulnier complete a loose trilogy of dark thrillers
WITH BLUE RUIN and Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier carved a distinct niche for himself, fusing arthouse and exploitation cinema marked by dynamism, a distinct feel for atmosphere and buckets of blood. His latest, Hold The Dark, seems to be continuing variations on this loose theme — but it’s proved his most taxing. “This film has so many firsts for me,” says Saulnier. “It has my record number of intimate dialogue scenes and my highest body count. It has my first war scene, my first aerial sequence, my first time working extensively with animals. So in that regard it was a huge challenge.”
Based on William Giraldi’s 2014 novel, Hold The Dark sees wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) investigate the disappearance of three children, believed taken by wolves in the Alaskan village of Keelut. In true Saulnier style, Core discovers an unspeakable secret that sets in motion bloodshed, despair and death. Saulnier was stretched to the limit working with wolves and his cast enduring the harsh conditions of Alberta, Canada. In the process he mounted a sustained shoot-out that feels like a movie within the movie.
“It was the most prepped scene I’ve ever done in my career,” he recalls. “On the one hand you have to be reverent to the characters and on the other hand, it’s always fun blowing shit up.”
When blowing shit up, it helps to have the money to do it, and Saulnier has found a welcome new home with Netflix’s deep pockets. The director is thrilled by the collaboration, but didn’t do anything to accommodate the small-screen format: “I made the biggest, widest-scoped cinematic movie I could make.”
Saulnier says he will “continue to explore high-impact kinetic filmmaking,” but don’t rule out some curveballs, especially if the blockbusters come calling. “I will do a big studio movie if it suits me,” he says. “But I will be able to nimbly write a self-funded indie just in case I shit the bed.” It’s unlikely. Besides, Frozen 3: Elsa Vs The Wolves would be a thing to behold.
HOLD THE DARK IS ON NETFLIX FROM 28 SEPTEMBER
Top to bottom: Troubled husband Vernon Sloane (Alexander Skarsgård) with son Bailey (Beckam Crawford); Wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) talks to Medora Sloane (Riley Keough); Behind the scenes shot of Core (Wright); Detective Donald Marium (James Badge Dale) and Arnie (Jonathan Whitesell) lie in wait.