Monday, March 18, 2024

And Then There Were Eleven


I'm the kind of easy mark when it comes to sales. Yellow sticker screaming price reduction that's still higher than the product to the left of it? SOLD. Similarly, when I get a free trial on ANYTHING, you can bet all my complimentary credits that I'll milk it for every last drop.

In case you were wondering, that's why yet again, we're here at the Criterion Channel as my 3-month membership ticks away. Zip up your parka and let's go! 

Quick Plot: A group of 11 teenagers are invited to a mysterious ski trip in the wintery mountains. With the exception of one pair of twins, none of the kids know one another, nor do they have any idea why they were selected or what EXACTLY they were selected for. The few parents we see are happy to dump their load off, even if the three instructors seem to be a

There's Gita, the long-haired sole female unwilling to take any sass from the teenage boy contingent. Wild-eyed Dingo seems like the kind of guy who fails senior year eight times to maximize his time bullying nerds. And of course, "Daddy." 

Up the kids trek into an isolated cabin surrounded by nothing but snow. Food--well, the good food--runs out quickly, putting everyone on edge. Then there's Daddy's sudden declaration that while there are 11 teenagers in the cabin, his list only accounts for 10. One doesn't belong, and Daddy insists it's the kids' job to identify the interloper. 

I don't know nearly enough about the political and cultural climate of 1987's Czechoslovakia to fully understand what writer/director Věra Chytilová is exploring with Wolf's Hole, but that doesn't mean I didn't find it fascinating. I went into this based on the Criterion Channel's description that implied it to be a satire of American slashers. Those elements are there, though there's clearly a lot more at play. 

The only real problem with Wolf's Hole is that it's an impossible movie to describe in a way to set any audience (particularly a genre one)'s expectations. Contrary to the marketing, this isn't really a horror film...but it's also not, well, any particular category. There's certainly satire and humor, maybe a little science fiction, and the bones of horror to put the audience in a very particular brain space. Don't go in expecting to be scared, but do expect a very odd way. 

High Points
I won't spoil it, but Wolf's Hole has one of my favorite endings to a movie in recent memory. I was NOT expecting to walk away from this feeling the way I did

Low Points
It was probably impossible to do with a group of 11 and such a brisk runtime, but it would have helped to have a little more differentiation between the kids (both physically and in terms of personality). I don't mind them all being kind of terrible, but I guess I would have preferred terrible in different ways

Lessons Learned
The weakest link is always left out

Put enough teenagers together and you're bound to have a food fight

SPOILER ALERT LESSON: the real trick to surviving a mysterious sure-to-kill-you trip? Never, and I mean NEVER, take that optimistic group photo before setting off. Our teens don't do it here and they're all better off for it

It's hard to say too much about Wolf's Hole without giving away some of its surprises. It's probably important to go in knowing you're not getting an '80s slasher or typical dead teenager movie, but at the same time, having those concepts in mind help enrich Wolf's Hole. It's not quite like anything else I've seen, which is always exciting. 


  1. Oh wow, I did NOT expect to see the name "Vera Chytilova" here! This sounds fascinating, although tbh it also sounds like you had the reaction I have to a fair amount of Soviet-bloc horror--intrigued, confused, definitely missing some of what's going on here, but willing to go on the ride. (I think the only film from that era/region I really love is "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.")

    It isn't horror, but I do think you would really enjoy "Daisies," if you haven't seen it already.

    1. I have NOT seen Daisies, but I'll check it out! This is definitely a big blind spot in my general film viewing (I imagine it is for MOST people) but I absolutely want to see more (even if I know I'm not getting all of its meaning)