Most awkward thing you'll see all week: Hold the Dark

If you come to this movie expecting something from the director of Blue Ruin and Green Room, and from the writer of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, you will be bitterly disappointed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

That’s interesting, the A.V. Club had a pretty favorable review of this movie, though they agree it’s lacking the qualities that made Blue Ruin and Green Room so great. As for me, the combination of Jeffrey Wright and Jeremy Saulnier is probably enough to get my money, curiosity uber alles most times.

I really wanted to like this, as a big fan of both Blue Ruin and Green Room, but it was just a mess. A well-shot mess, but a mess all the same. Most of the individual performances were great (the highlight for me was Julian Black Antelope as Cheeon),there were a few scenes I loved, and I’m just a sucker for that type of scenery, but the plot just didn’t make sense to me and I came away not really understanding what happened or why.

Aw chaps. C’mon. That includes you Tom Chick. Here’s what happened: a load of largely innocent people got killed because some others are like wolves. It’s a better film than you’re saying but either way I’m grateful for your critical attention because otherwise I wouldn’t have watched it. Thanks.

Agreed it was well shot and the acting was strong, and consistent. Director to everybody: “speak quietly and uncertainly like you’re either not sure or afraid” (or worried that asserting yourself tends to lead to violence). That worked, mostly. It fit with the landscape. Pathetic fallacy etc. And agreed it was borrowing some of what Wind River did well. Mostly cinematographically communicating “it’s different out there you know, hostile even.”

But guess what? I preferred this film to Wind River and that’s best explained by the shootout scene. The shootout scene in Wind River really bothered me. I was utterly convinced and horrified by how plausibly the film reasoned out the terrible shocking murder and sexual assault. Because of how stupid and violent neanderthal low-lifes are and can be etc. Because of how terribly populations exploit each other is the extrapolation . And I thought the tension and acting leading into the shootout was magnificent. The whole flanking thing was particularly terrific. But I didn’t believe the shootout could happen like the rest of the film happened. Period. It stuck out of the movie like it didn’t belong.

The shootout in Hold the Dark was no less violence for consumption but it belonged because it sustained the film’s premise - that some people are like wolves and there’s not much the rest of us can do about that. So even if the scene was fundamentally silly (as Wind River’s OK Corral) and the premise is perhaps a bit sub Terry Malick in the way it has been executed (no shame there, he be a genius) it does contribute by sustaining the same point giving life and reason to some excellent performances. It adds to the creation of a vibrant bond between a set of locations and the sense of the wild, irrational and dangerous nature of human beings. And it makes you think, which Wind River really didn’t.

But yeah, the lead actor murdering like he’s an automaton happens once too often and queers the pitch. Still, it did make me think and I’m grateful for that. Wind River was closer to a lecture and I really worried about the way the characters were set up and treated so I could get on the end of that lecture.

I got the “some people are like wolves” message, but I guess it just didn’t really carry much weight for me.

But I will agree on the shootout: I thought that was far and away the highlight of the film, and made the film worth watching on its own.

Coming from Saulnier, I assumed I would love this. Turned out, I didn’t.

It has moments, but it’s definitely minor Saulnier. The denouement, which I assume was meant to be impactful, I found pretty light on meaning…and to be honest, I’m not even sure I totally got what was happening. The big centerpiece shootout scene was indeed the best part of the film.

Mostly, I was left wondering why Jeffrey Wright isn’t cast in every movie.

Here’s an interview with Saulnier about this movie I came across.

It’s a total success for me if you experience it, and you are somewhat bewildered. Like, you’re asking yourself: What the fuck was that ?

Well, he certainly achieved what he set out to achieve.

This movie is really a piece of something, not a straight arrow murder mystery a la Wind River…more ‘mystical’ evil murders by way of primal nature’s ancient traditions or some such AKA the wolves eating their own young. Boy does it not explain what is going on in any direct way.

“[its] characters with its setting”


I kind of knew this was not the movie for me. It was brutal and gross in a pretty much useless way and it made no sense. I wanted for it to make sense, but in the end the message just doesn’t work. Wolves are not creatures out there just slaughtering to slaughters so them acting as wolves… wolves don’t do that.

Well shot. Good coloring, well acted but in the end if something says from the maker or anything related to Hold the Dark, hard pass.

Well, sharks don’t act like the ones in the Jaws movies, but people couldn’t get enough of all that man-eating action. Probably not a problem Hold the Dark will be suffering from.

I’m guessing you didn’t watch the whole movie? I can’t say I blame you. But, no, wolves don’t do that. The mother lied about the wolves killing her child. She killed the child herself.

Hold the Dark isn’t actually about wolves. They wolves are – you guessed it – a metaphor. It even flirts with the supernatural. I’m guessing it was a pretty compelling book. It’s a shame the incredibly talented director, writer, and cast couldn’t translate it to the screen effectively.


I watched the entire movie. I thought they were trying to say that the violent people had wolf in them or something. It’s just, those people were awful; wolves are not. I get that they set you up for a more traditional man vs. nature setting and then mostly give you a weak thriller that takes place in nature in remote setting, so it’s odd enough to for most viewers to find it at least a little extraordinary. But again, i thought they were comparing wolves to the nature of some of those people. Except if someone had a wolf spirit in them or was part wolf that just wouldn’t make them a psychotic killer.

Maybe I misunderstood what they were trying to say about the nature of those people. I probably didn’t get a lot of the movie, so that wouldn’t surprise me.

I think the point about the wolves was that in times of crisis, they eat their young. Seems to me that was the theme more than any message about wolves being savage. But, yeah, whichever is the case, the movie was pretty awkward wasn’t it? I just wanted to make sure you knew the reveal about the child’s murder.

Did you see Green Room or Blue Ruin? Hard to believe it’s the same director.


Yes especially… the ending. I am not sure if those two wolves were going after them or if those two wolves were supposed to be them. Then I realized it didn’t really matter because i didn’t buy either explanation. Even if they were more wolf like that explains one death out of… dozens.

I have no seen Green Room or Blue Ruin. These types of thrillers aren’t usually my thing, even the good ones, but i thought I would give it a go because it kept coming up as recommendation (no idea why), and I like the wolf whisperer guy as an actor.

I have been misled.

I thought this movie conveyed many of the same themes as Blue Ruin. To me, Green Room is the outlier. Green Room is also my favorite of the three, but I liked Hold the Dark just as much as Blue Ruin, and that is considerable.