From Literary Hub: There is one notable exception to the usual reality-to-dystopia ratio, though, that is both humbler and infinitely more unsettling. On September 11, 2006, Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was the most ambitious and expansive of the independent horror auteur’s career, and a long time in the making. Fessenden started writing the film in November of 2001; producer Jeff Levy-Hinte began shopping the script, on which Fessenden collaborated with the writer Robert Leaver, in 2003. It was a horror movie, but more specifically it was a Larry Fessenden Horror Movie, which is to say a doomy character-driven mood piece, with the dominant mood being Choking Dread. Also, it was about climate change, and set at a remote oil company outpost in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve where debates about the ethics of natural resource exploitation give way to something darker. It was not going to be an easy sale, in other words, and it did not sell. Levy-Hinte struck out with the larger independent studios.
It’s a commonplace of discussions on the it-actually-exists-and-is-bad side of the global warming debate to opine that better storytelling is needed. This is the side of the debate on which virtually all of the scientific facts and elite consensus reside, but that consensus routinely expresses itself in the washed-out language of scientists trying to speak English; the facts, factual though they may be, are so crushing in what they promise that they become abstract again. It is natural to turn away from horror at that obliterating scale. It is a difficult story to tell because it is one humans are seemingly built not to understand.
In The Last Winter, Fessenden chose to tell it anyway, and much of what is most powerful and most powerfully unsettling in his movie owes to that. He literalizes where he has to in order to make the story work, and he caricatures where he must to make the points he wants to make; this is his job. But his first decision was his bravest, and it would make The Last Winter stand out even if more—any, really—films had similarly risen to this challenge in the decade since. Plenty of horror filmmakers have wrestled with monsters. Fessenden took on one that he knew he couldn’t beat.
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