Em­brac­ing the dark­ness

Hold The Dark sees di­rec­tor Jeremy Saulnier com­plete a loose tril­ogy of dark thrillers

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - IAN FREER

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.


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.

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