Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark is a 2018 American action 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.

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
Screenplay 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

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 Slone. Core stays at the Slone house, and tries to tell Medora that this type of wolf behavior doesn't happen. Medora says "It happened to me." Medora tells him that there is darkness there, and tells him of a hot springs to the north of town, which is the only warm place she's ever known. She also says her husband is away fighting in the war, and that he told her he would never leave her. In the middle of the night, Core wakes and sees Medora scrubbing her skin in the bath. When she is finished, she lays down naked next to Core without saying anything and puts his hand on her neck.

Medora's husband Vernon Slone (Alexander Skarsgård), overseas in Iraq,[2] returns gun fire on Iraqi insurgents. Stationed at a checkpoint when shooting breaks out, Vernon rescues a local woman who is being raped by another American, wounding him with a knife and then handing the bloodied knife to the woman for her to take revenge. Leaving the house, he is caught in an ambush and shot but survives to be sent home. After he is shot, he is being carried to a helicopter to transport him out of the country. He has a flashback of his son, Bailey, and mumbles his name, to which the medic replies that Vernon would be home soon to see him.

In the morning, Core leaves town to track the wolves, and meets an old native woman along the way out of town, 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, just after cutting his own arm and marking his son's body with blood, a Yup'ik burial ritual.

Vernon reads the file and after burning it he goes to visit the witch. She tells him the wolves had come before. She claims no responsibility for what happened. She tells him about the influenza which spread through the village and took the lives of many, with nowhere to bury them with the ground frozen.

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 only to find Illanaq dead. As officers take up position around Cheeon's house, Marium approaches to ask about his involvement with the murders and to give him an opportunity to surrender before they take him in. Cheeon talks about the government's neglect of Keelut and how it has affected their village.[3] He then warns Marium that he will not go peacefully, and as Marium returns to his position with the other officers, Cheeon opens fire on them from a second floor window with a tripod mounted M60 machine gun. The shootout continues, with many officers being wounded and killed. Marium asks another officer to cover him while he tries to enter the house from the rear. As Cheeon continues shooting, Core drags a wounded officer to safety. Cheeon is about to shoot them, when Core yells "Stop it!" and Cheeon ceases fire for a moment. Meanwhile, Marium sneaks past an entryway trip wire, ascends the steps to the second floor and kills Cheeon, who falls from the window to the front yard.

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 is seen snorting a white powder just before Vernon arrives. Shan removes the bullet and Vernon falls asleep.

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. Following Shan's mending of his shoulder, Vernon has a dream of himself and Medora in the hot springs. Upon waking, and overhearing Shan informing the police about Vernon, he kills Shan. Core and Marium fly to the hot springs in a small plane. Examining wolf tracks in the snow, Marium is shot through the neck by an arrow fired by Vernon in the trees, wearing the mask. Hoping to intercept Vernon in the springs, Core finds Medora, and tells her he is coming. Core is shot in the chest by an arrow from Vernon. As Vernon strangles Medora, she 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.[4] In January 2017, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film, with Anish Savjani and Neil Kopp joining as producers.[5] In February 2017, Alexander Skarsgård, Riley Keough, James Bloor, James Badge Dale and Jeffrey Wright, joined the cast of the film.[6]


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.[7][8]


It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2018.[9] It also screened at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2018.[10][11] It was released on September 28, 2018.[12]

Critical receptionEdit

Hold the Dark received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported a 70% approval rating based on 81 reviews, with an average score of 6.42/10. 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."[13] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 63 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]


  1. ^ "Hold the Dark". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved August 14, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Hold the Dark Is a Revenge Epic That's Not Quite What It Seems". The Atlantic. September 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "Hold the Dark Shootout Scene". Decider. October 1, 2018.
  4. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 24, 2015). "A24, 'Green Room' Helmer Reteaming on Thriller 'Hold the Dark'". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (January 26, 2017). "Netflix to Distribute Thriller 'Hold the Dark' With 'Green Room' Director". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "HOLD THE DARK – FEATURE FILM- UNION (Non-Union talent may also apply)". EbossCanada.com. Retrieved February 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Hold the Dark" (PDF). Directors Guild of America. Retrieved February 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Kay, Jeremy (August 14, 2018). "Toronto unveils Contemporary World Cinema, more Galas and Special Presentations". Screen International. Retrieved August 14, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Hold the Dark". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved August 23, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Hold the Dark (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 4, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Hold the Dark Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 3, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit