Grinchmas 2023 · Horror · Horrorthon365 · Microreview · Movies

Grinchmas 2023: ‘Hold the Dark’ Is a Cold and Bloody Christmas Horror That Begins With the Unspeakable and Spirals Down From There

‘The Lodge’ (2019) wasn’t Riley Keough’s first turn as a mother who isn’t quite able to handle the responsibilities of motherhood, or the harsh brutalities of the holiday season in a remote cabin. A year before in 2018 Keough extends this narrative in Jeremy Saulnier’s Netflix original ‘Hold the Dark.’

While Medora’s (Keough) husband is away at war in Iraq, her son Bailey (Beckham Crawford) goes missing. She claims he was taken by wolves, and enlists the help of wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to find the animal that killed her son. But just as Core makes a gruesome discovery of an unimaginable act, Medora goes missing herself. Her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård) returns to their remote Alaskan village Keelut in time to add to the bloody fallout of Bailey’s death.

“When kids are killed the future dies,” Cheeon (Julian Black Antelope), Vernon’s best friend says to local law enforcement, after pointing out their hypocrisy in investigating the death of a white boy and not his Indigenous daughter who died under suspicious circumstances years before. It’s a statement that hits home hard in today’s context of Israel’s war in Gaza, and the staggering number of children who have been indiscriminately murdered by the IDF, stopping entire lineages in their tracks.

‘Hold the Dark’ is as brutal as the icy Alaskan landscape. And as grotesque as the things people will do when they believe they have nothing left to lose. Closing the film with classic holiday tune “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is a particular gut-punch in this context.

✨Hunting knife/5 stars. Highly recommend bracing yourself for this one.✨

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Zuzu Zombie’s #Horrorthon365 project is a collection of eclectic genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and carpal tunnel surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. After a wicked fall at home and brutal elbow fracture that required surgery, posts will be sporadic until I’m healed. In the meantime, browse the entire collection here