WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, streaming now on Netflix.
The premise for Netflix’s Hold the Dark seems simple enough — a mother, Medora Sloane (Riley Keough), in grief over having her son abducted by wolves calls in a naturalist, Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), to lead the search party. However, the film takes a very dark (no pun intended) turn, which changes the entire complexion of the narrative.
In fact, not only do we view the characters and the tone of the flick differently from this point, the twist leaves us wondering who the heroes, villains and victims really are. To top it off, as the audience tries to piece this fork in the road together, it leads to another stark revelation and unearths yet another mystery buried deep in the Alaskan wilderness.
Based on William Giraldi’s novel, Hold the Dark is a suspense-filled flick that starts off feeling like Mystic River, with Russell trying desperately to find a young boy, Bailey. Russell’s a documentarian and wolf expert, and Medora’s final hope as her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård) is off on duty in Iraq. As he searches for the child though, staying at Medora’s house starts to get, well, freaky. Russell’s first red flag comes as he’s struggling to sleep one night and notices the woman naked, save for a wolf mask. She removes it and comes into his bed, but the move is not of a sexual nature. Instead, she tries to get him to strangle her. He resists, and as she calms down, he remembers how he saw wolves eating a young cub earlier in the snow.
This propels the first act and, more importantly, the first twist. Russell, spooked by the incident, begins to dig up more dirt on Medora, realizing her family’s the only European one in the village, Keelut (which ironically means ‘a demon who feasts on souls’). The resident shaman tells him Medora was possessed by a wolf-demon called a “tournaq,” blighting her family. He’s skeptical but returns to the house, only to find the woman missing, and Bailey’s body in the basement, strangled to death. Medora was actually the killer, leaving Russell wondering why she invited him to solve the issue in the first place.
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