Hold the Dark (2018) – Review

Hold the Dark is available September 28th on Netflix.

[Ed. note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By David Cuevas

It’s safe to say that Jeremy Saulnier is easily one of the most intriguing directors when compared with postmodern American cinema. With films such as Blue Ruin and Green Room, it’s reassuring that we have such a talented and visceral director in the industry. Saulnier’s films always deal with ultra-violent and brutal themes relating to ideas, society, and the American spirit. His latest, Hold the Dark, unfortunately somewhat falters in delivering the thrills and chills of his previous work.

It’s oddly concerning that Hold the Dark fails in having much of a purpose. For a film which could have easily been a better version of Wind River, with fleshed out characters with actual arks and motivations (looking at you Taylor Sheridan), it ended up being a messy well-determined effort. What’s left of Hold the Dark, is an inspired cluster of ideas that fail in having a cohesive structure.

Similar to Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Hold the Dark focuses more on developing tension and atmosphere than character and plot. It’s long moving scenes of its Alaskan vista’s gives plenty of eye candy for the audience to chew on. However, unlike the motivated result of Villeneuve’s Sicario, the setup of Hold the Dark heavily relied on character motivations and reasoning. This obviously causes a problem, in which setting and tone contradict characters and plot.

So, what’s left of Hold the Dark? Essentially, all that remains is a boneless well-executed film that unfortunately collapses and gets lost in a blizzard of lost opportunities. While the cast gave it there all, with notable highlights from Alexander Skarsgård and Jeffrey Wright, and Saulnier’s directing is at the top of his game, what unfortunately brings this film down is the writing. What could have been a film that dealt with themes of vicious rituals and human empathy, somehow managed to be a one-note piece on the obsessive ideologies of cults and other aforementioned rituals. Hold the Dark is simply a disappointing yet well-meant effort from one of America’s most talented exports.

I give Hold the Dark a C+.

Jeffrey Wright in the new film Hold the Dark. Photo credit: Netflix