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Focus on the Frightful: Is The Grey a Horror Movie?

The Grey is an action/adventure/drama starring Liam Neeson. The way it’s shot, however, is very reminiscent of a horror movie and that interested me. Hear me out.

Also, possible spoilers for The Grey.

It starts out with Ottway on the job as a wolf spotter/sniper, protecting workers on an oil line in Alaska. We’re in his head as he’s narrating a letter that he’s writing. We get flashbacks to him and a woman that he’s obviously intimately involved with. The flashbacks are incomplete so we’ll have to wait to see what’s up.

We do get the sense that things went wrong somewhere, though, as Ottway is contemplating suicide. He decides not to do it. The next day he boards a plane to go back to civilization with the rest of the oil crew. On its way the plane gets downed by a storm and Ottway is left with a group of five other survivors.

He becomes their unofficial leader (not without some friction from one of the other men). They face the elements and wolf attacks.

Which is where the horror element comes in. Most of the movie is framed as a basic survive against the elements type of movie but the wolf attacks are framed as almost supernatural. They lurk in the dark, just out of range of the fire. Waiting. Watching.

Much of the cinematography is used to highlight this aspect. The wolves look preternaturally big, showing sentience slightly beyond what you would think of as ‘typical’ wolf behaviour. They have self-control and slowly stalk their prey through miles of woodlands, striking when they’re least suspected.

Three scenes in particular emphasize the horror aspect.

Diaz has been gravely injured and after giving it his best attempt, decides to wait out his death by the side of a river. From his perspective the scene is tranquil and beautiful but then the perspective slowly shifts to a wolf slowly walking up behind him. The camera’s POV changes to that of the wolf and it evokes a feeling of dread and doom far beyond what you would normally get than if it had been a side or wide shot of the wolf attacking him.

Another is after a wolf attack. The camera zooms in close to a paw print that slowly fills up with blood. It’s very creepy looking.

The last is at the end of the movie when Ottway realizes he has basically been driven right into the wolf’s lair the wolf looms over him and looks absolutely terrifying. The other wolves also back off to let the two ‘Alphas’ fight it out amongst themselves.

The Grey ends on a cliffhanger but, really, it doesn’t matter which wins, the human or the wolf. There is a post-credits scene but it’s basically another cliffhanger.

Again, you don’t know what happened, who was triumphant and at this point it really doesn’t matter.

I feel like the wolves were emphasized in this way to make the men seem smaller, in comparison. I can imagine it would fel like that if I were trapped in the wilderness having to survive the elements and being stalked by wolves. It would feel like they were some mythical beast hunting me or I was being stalked by Death itself. Death that can tear you apart and eat you alive.

I ended up liking The Grey much more than I thought I would. And I believe it was because the wolves were emphasized in such a way. Wolves are cool enough as it is but this made them seem indomitable. A force of nature as inevitable as the howling winds and bitter cold.

If you guys give The Grey a watch, or have watched it, let me know your thoughts. Does it strike you as having more horror movie elements? Let me know down below!

Published inFocus on the Frightful

One Comment

  1. I did enjoy the flick. Although, I didn’t really weigh the elements to the degree you did. I guess I would consider it, at least in some ways, a horror/thriller.
    Also, I cut it off before getting to the after-credits scene, so now I’ll have to watch it again.

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