Hold the Dark ★★½

Four of my five favourite up and coming genre directors - Cosmatos, Moorhead/Benson, Cattet/Forzani, and Strickland - put out films this year that lean into their eccentricities, pushing their personal vision to the more personal. (I say that not having seen the Strickland but that's what I take from the reviews.)

HOLD THE DARK, on the other hand, doesn't. I mean, there's a few Saulnier signifiers - realistic gore, a clean shooting style - but this is altogether different in feel, and isn't landing with me. I've seen Saulnier co-sign a tweet that it's his drone metal album to GREEN ROOM's punk rock, but in a year that's already seen a nonpareil drone metal film (MANDY), this can't hope to claim that title. It's lugubrious bar a few flashes of violence, and feels like it could have been made by anybody. That it's a novel adaptation makes sense, as character motivations are either blurry or sketchy. Overall, it feels like a film that was made with proof that he can work with a larger canvas and should be trusted with a bigger budget, instead of BLUE RUIN and GREEN ROOM, which felt like films the filmmaker *had* to make. It gives me no pleasure to pan this, and I'm still rooting for his next film. But space #5 on that list up top is suddenly up for grabs.

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