Sébastien Drouin’s feature debut Cold Meat is essentially the kind of single-location survival thriller ideal for a first project. They’re reasonably economic to make and are a chance to flex a writer’s and actor’s muscles they endeavour to make a static scenario narratively and visually interesting. Drouin and his co-writers James Kermack and Andrew Desmond introduce a supernatural element to enliven their snowbound horror but fail to build on an exceptional first act.

Amid early warnings of extreme blizzards, motorist David (Allen Leech) stops off at a diner just as waitress Ana (Nina Bergman) is accosted by her drunken ex, Vincent (Yan Tual). The slight, bookish-looking David unexpectedly defuses the situation, yet later finds himself marooned in his car in a snowbank at the storm hits, after being pursued by the vengeful Vincent. With an injured leg he battens down the hatches to try and ride out the blizzard, but he isn’t alone.

At first, Cold Meat looks set to be one of the finest survival thrillers of recent years. A spectacular twist at the end of the first act sets up an unexpected and fascinating dynamic and the opportunity to meditate on that old quandary that goes back at least as far as Frankenstein: who is the real monster?

However, the film settles down into a more recognisably routine narrative, albeit with a constantly shifting balance of power and with an increased threat lurking in the blizzard. In that sense Cold Meat resembles a small-scale version of the The Terror. Drouin resists drawing too much on his background in visual effects, preferring to maintain the minimal, spartan setting. Even with genre familiarity restored after the surprising beginning, the ingredients are all there for a more than satisfying claustrophobic chiller.

Sadly, it all falls rather flat despite the spirited efforts of its leads. The Wendigo – for it’s clear from an opening voiceover that is the beast we’re dealing with – feels more like a thematic device and not the ever-present threat that it should be. In fact, it’s easy to forget about its existence for long stretches at a time. The film also gets bogged down in clunky dialogue as it indulges in some cliched psychological examination of its central character.

Once it becomes clear which direction Cold Meat is taking, it becomes steadily less impressive. Sébastien Drouin is undoubtedly a fine stylist, keeping his confined, barren setting consistently cinematic with some interesting angles and judicious flashbacks, but very few of the narrative ideas he puts on screen actually stick, leaving a film that melts away in the consciousness like a brief flurry of snow on an early Spring morning.

Available on digital platforms from Mon 26 Feb 2024