“Hold the Dark”: Pursuing the Motiveless Malignancy

In Hold the Dark, a Netflix original from Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) how much horror you can take and try to rationally understand depends on whether you can discern the clues before turning away.

Hold the Dark is a brutal tale of revenge and grief set in an Alaskan wilderness caught between the savage tug of nature, mythic indigenous beliefs and the restraints of civilization and the law. The dividing line between all three are collapsed and merged, making it impossible to understand on a rational level. Somewhere between the mythic and the animalistic is where the emotional reality and understanding exist, where motiveless malignant evil seeks its level and ultimate expression.

This struggle is played out in the conflict between Jeffrey Wright’s rational, intelligent wolf behaviorist and the blood rampage Alexander Skarsgard howling, aching, vengeful traumatized veteran unleashes on the world. The violence is both blood redemption and annihilation, an attempt to reset the world to a more natural level free of restraints. Civilization exists to hold the dark on the anathema of nature.

Hold the Dark is a difficult film to understand and watch because it attempts to explain what the rational mind can only see and understand as evil and motiveless. It attempts to explain why the Iagos of Shakespeare’s Othello exist. Why for them there is no need to Hold the Dark.

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