Hold the Dark

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Hold the Dark
Hold the Dark.jpeg
Official poster
Directed byJeremy Saulnier
Produced by
  • Russell Ackerman
  • Eva Maria Daniels
  • Neil Kopp
  • Anish Savjani
  • John Schoenfelder
Written byMacon Blair
Based onHold the Dark
by William Giraldi
Music by
  • Brooke Blair
  • Will Blair
CinematographyMagnus Nordenhof Jønck
Edited byJulia Bloch
  • Addictive Pictures
  • VisionChaos Productions
  • FilmScience
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 12, 2018 (2018-09-12) (TIFF)
  • September 28, 2018 (2018-09-28) (worldwide)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Hold the Dark is a 2018 American thriller film directed by Jeremy Saulnier from a screenplay by Macon Blair. It is based upon the novel of the same name by William Giraldi and stars Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, James Badge Dale, Riley Keough, Tantoo Cardinal, and Julian Black Antelope.

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2018 and was released on September 28, 2018, by Netflix.


In December 2004, Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), a writer who studies wolf behavior, is summoned to the village of Keelut, Alaska by Medora Slone (Riley Keough), who wants him to hunt down the wolves blamed for the disappearance and presumed death of three small children, including Medora's 6-year-old son, Bailey. Core stays at the Slone house, and Medora tells him of a hot springs to the north of town.

Medora's husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård), overseas in Iraq, mercilessly guns down Iraqi militants. Stationed at a checkpoint when shooting breaks out, Vernon is shot but survives to be sent home.

Core leaves town to track the wolves, and meets an old native woman, Illanaq, who tells him he is going the wrong way, and that Medora 'knows evil'. Core tracks the wolves, finding the hot springs Medora mentioned, and spots a pack of wolves eating their young. Unwilling to shoot them, Core returns to Keelut. At the Slone house, he finds Medora missing and discovers Bailey's frozen, strangled body in the cellar. The police investigate, and native villagers claim Medora is possessed by a wolf-demon called a tournaq.

Vernon's friend and father to another missing child, Cheeon (Julian Black Antelope), meets him at the airport and brings him to police chief Donald Marium (James Badge Dale), Core, and other officers at the morgue. After Marium leaves with Core, Vernon kills the officers and the coroner and takes his son's body. Cheeon builds a coffin, and Vernon buries his son in the snow. Discovering the officers murdered and Bailey’s body missing, Marium realizes Vernon is responsible.

Core, remembering the old woman's warning, arrives in Keelut at the same time as the police. As officers take up position Cheeon’s house, Marium approaches to ask about his involvement with the murders. Cheeon warns Marium that he will not go peacefully, and opens fire on the officers before Marium kills him.

At an inn outside a tourist mine where Medora was sighted, Vernon meets John, an elderly hunter who treated him with wolf-oil as a child for his apparent psychopathy. At John’s invitation, Vernon takes a mask from the wall. He dons it and kills John, and is shot in the shoulder by the innkeeper as he leaves. He visits Shan, an old friend who removes the bullet.

Core and Marium theorize that Medora killed Bailey to “save him from darkness”. Core believes Medora may have gone to the springs, and he and Marium agree to try to find her before Vernon does. Vernon has a dream of himself and Medora in the hot springs. Overhearing Shan informing the police about Vernon, he kills Shan. Core and Marium fly to the hot springs. Examining wolf tracks in the snow, Marium is shot through the neck by an arrow fired by Vernon, wearing the mask. Hoping to intercept Vernon in the springs, Core finds Medora, and is shot in the chest by an arrow from Vernon. As Vernon strangles her, Medora pushes the mask off his face, and he releases her. They embrace, and Core falls unconscious.

After Core awakens, Vernon removes the arrow before leaving with Medora. Core crawls outside the cave, encountering a pack of wolves. He is found by a father and son with a snowmobile and brought to their home for care, as Vernon's mother looks on. Vernon and Medora dig up Bailey's grave, and pull the coffin behind them as they trek through the snow. Core wakes up in the hospital, his daughter Amy at his bedside.



In September 2015, it was announced Jeremy Saulnier would direct the film, based upon a screenplay by Macon Blair, while Eva Maria Daniels, Russell Ackerman and John Schoenfelder would produce the film under their VisionChaos Productions banner and Addictive Pictures banners respectively, A24 would distribute the film.[2] In January 2017, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film, with Anish Savjani and Neil Kopp joining as producers.[3] In February 2017, Alexander Skarsgård, Riley Keough, James Bloor, James Badge Dale and Jeffrey Wright, joined the cast of the film.[4]


Principal photography began on February 27, 2017, and concluded on April 26, 2017. Filming took place in and around the areas surrounding Calgary, Drumheller and Kananaskis Country, Alberta, which were used to substitute for Alaska.[5][6]


It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2018.[7] It also screened at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2018.[8][9] It was released on September 28, 2018.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Holder the Dark received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported a 69% approval rating based on 72 reviews, with an average score of 6.5/10. The website's critical consensus they, "Hold the Dark's unsettling aesthetic offers more of what filmgoers expect from director Jeremy Saulnier — and is often enough to prop up shaky narrative underpinnings."[11] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 63 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]


  1. ^ "Hold the Dark". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  2. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 24, 2015). "A24, 'Green Room' Helmer Reteaming on Thriller 'Hold the Dark'". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (January 26, 2017). "Netflix to Distribute Thriller 'Hold the Dark' With 'Green Room' Director". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  4. ^ Kit, Borys (February 10, 2017). "Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgard, James Badge Dale to Star in Netflix Thriller 'Hold the Dark' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "HOLD THE DARK – FEATURE FILM- UNION (Non-Union talent may also apply)". EbossCanada.com. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "Hold the Dark" (PDF). Directors Guild of America. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  7. ^ Kay, Jeremy (August 14, 2018). "Toronto unveils Contemporary World Cinema, more Galas and Special Presentations". Screen International. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  8. ^ "Hold the Dark". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Day-Ramos, Dino (August 22, 2018). "Fantastic Fest: 'Halloween', 'Hold The Dark', 'Climax' Set For Second Wave Of Programming". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Travis, Ben (August 9, 2018). "Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room Follow-Up Hold The Dark Has His 'Highest Body Count' – Exclusive Image". Empire Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Hold the Dark (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "Hold the Dark Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 3, 2018.

External links[edit]