Whatever it is, it's as intent on whittling down the North crew's number as your standard masked dude with machete at a girls' school. Except The Last Winter isn't that kind of horror movie.
It's the kind, rather, that builds an atmosphere of dread from disorientation and psychological fragility instead of things jumping out from behind doors. In fact, as with Wendigo, the least effective elements in The Last Winter are its most literally minded fantastical. Fessenden does ambiguity with such skill that when monster thingies finally arrive, it's a bit of a tacky letdown. The most harrowing moments in this beautifully crafted film are contrastingly realistic, such as a sudden plunge through thin ice into freezing waters.
Movies like The Last Winter don't win awards, and sometimes they don't get distributed. (It's taken this movie more than a year to reach US theaters; elsewhere, it's been shunted directly to DVD.) But I can't think of a genre film I've enjoyed more in 2007, let alone another one that has rewarded repeat viewings. Even if The Last Winter weren't scary, funny, surprising, and gorgeously shot, Fessenden would still warrant all kinds of gratitude for letting the terminally underappreciated and invariably excellent James LeGros carry a movie. He's so good here that if there were any justice in the world ... ah, forget it. There isn't.
THE LAST WINTER
Opens Fri/28 in Bay Area theaters