Can a survival thriller be considered a horror movie? Not always, but when they involve big, scary monsters out to GET you, then you really need to make some allowances...
Liam Neeson is the animal expert assigned to protect a scraggly crew of petroleum workers in remote Alaska from the local wildlife. He takes no pleasure in killing predatory wolves--indeed, he seems to respect their life more than his own (we open as he composes his suicide note even though he doesn't go through with the actual deed the first chance he gets). As for his fellow humans? They're here because, as he sees it, they're incompatible with the human race...
The rest you know from the trailer. Plane crash. Ultimately seven men standing. And then the wolves show up. They're not hungry... they're not hunting... but the humans have landed within thirty miles of THEIR den, and they're not going to rest until they've eliminated each and every intruder.
The shocks and the thrills are most certainly there, but it isn't long before you realize that this film has more important things to consider than "who lives and who dies." (Summing this up as "FROZEN without the ski-lift" won't do the trick.) The characters are all given the proper time and attention to sustain a two-hour running time, and while it's not hard to figure out what motivates Neeson, I'll just allow that it's done beautifully all the same.
While THE GREY is by no means as intense and frantic as director Joe Carnahan's debut feature NARC, it's miles ahead of plenty of competition when it comes to the suspense/horror sequences. The wolves (we get both well-handled CGI and the real thing) are both majestic and downright frightening, and this is conveyed with plenty of vision and imagination. For instance, we've all seen the yellow eyes multiplying in the darkness, and we've all seen the sudden pounce (not that they don't still work), but I've never seen a pack of wolves visually indicated by nothing more than their collective breath rising into the air... I watch scenes like this and can't help but be reminded yet again of that stinker known as SEASON OF THE WITCH and the way it applied stupid "demon" faces to the wolves in an apparent attempt to make them "scary."
Call it drama, call it adventure, call it a thriller, or call it horror--whatever your preference, THE GREY is one satisfyingly meaty show.
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