There is something terrifying about the remoteness of an uninhabited mountain range, where human tracks are scarce and well off the cell phone coverage maps. Yet, they remain inevitably attractive locales to vacationing extreme snowboarders, and of course, covert military science agencies. This is obviously why the team behind Cold Prey (Sundland & Lyngner, 2006) selected the Jotunheimen mountain region in south Norway as the setting of their blood feast, in which we follow a group of young snowboarders in pursuit of fresh powder and the ultimate rush. However, the thrill hunters become the hunted as they are pursued and killed one by one by a madman, somehow surviving in the secluded mountains, in a revenge-fueled rage. Here, we are faced with the classic terrors of a raging madman, hell-bent on mercilessly ripping apart the nubile bodies of our helpless protagonists. This award-winning film is an excellent, though rather humourless, example of the power of a formulaic slasher to excite our spines and raise our neck-hairs.
The mystery and terror of secluded mountain regions, too, must have been the motivation for the setting of Ice Spiders (Colichman et al., 2007), in which a military experiment in genetic mutation goes awry and a group of hapless snowboarders are faced with monstrous -- and colourful! -- computer-generated spiders hunting and eating the flesh of unsuspecting vacationers. A battle with the spiders is ‘heroically’ championed by a washed-up skier who shows everybody, especially the rigid scientists, that sometimes you just have to think with your guts and ignore all that is reasonable and logical.
In addition to the shared setting, these two films both conjure strong emotions in their viewers, but for different reasons. To understand how a film is capable of inducing such emotions, we must visit the scheme by Russell (1980) (provided below), which maps human emotions in two dimensions using a continuum of arousal (aroused --> not aroused) and pleasantness (pleasant --> unpleasant) to define various emotional states. Cold Prey is a smart, effective, slasher, able to thrill and terrorize the viewer. The music, pace, and atmosphere are all arousing enough, and combined with ruthless slaughter, they are unpleasant enough to actually induce fear. Ice Spiders, on the other hand, is hardly arousing but it is chock-full of unpleasant stimulation -- all the gore is in broad daylight, the dialogue seems like it was written by a kid at bible camp, and the spiders look terrible, but not in the intended sense. This combination makes the viewer disgusted with themselves at best for continuing to watch, and most definitely saddened by the antics unfolding. These two films are certainly not alone in their abilities to induce a change in the emotional state of the viewer, but together they illustrate the importance of coordinating the arousing stimulation in creating an effective horrific experience.
Check out Cold Prey at:
Check out Ice Spiders at:
Colichman, P., Hess, A., Hess, S., Jarchow, SP., & Rosenthal, JR. (Producers), & Takacs, T. (Director). (2007). Ice Spiders [Motion picture]. USA: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Russell, JA. (1980). A circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 1161-1178.
Sundland, M., & Lyngner, M. (Producers), Uthaug, R. (Director). (2006). Cold Prey [Motion picture]. Norway: SF Norge AS.