Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scandinavian Horror: My Ongoing Love Affair

(“Dark Souls” a Norwegian film coming out, above)

I admit to just not getting Japanese horror. I have given it a lot of tries and between the fart jokes and the jerky camera shots and white faces…I am well and truly spent. Australian is good but mostly suspense and the plots don’t always make sense because pacing is s-l-o-w and the characters are often times not pleasant so you don’t root for anyone. French is beautiful to watch but a bit too philosophical and so I get lost in whatever point they’re trying to make that makes my mind stray.

But, like Goldie Locks, I found the one that was just right--The people of the North Countries sure know what I like. Even when they do “stupid young people getting killed” themes, they actually seem like a bunch of real-life friends and not necessarily gorgeous, perfect, and unbelievably stupid and shallow. Instead, they are often geeky, awkward, intelligent, or adorable. The movies are cinematic, tense, grotesque and I often really have no idea how they’ll turn out. I appreciate that because so many stories in horror are formulaic. They have a special fixation on 80s slasher style movies and humor in horror like “Shaun of the Dead.” I find their locales and quirky characters refreshing. Their plotting, pacing, filming, acting…it all works. And, they’re pretty darned good at special effects for horror without the usual American reliance on CGI (I hate that shit! It insults my intelligence!--As does 3D!)

Out of the blue (sent from heaven?) I got an email from a wonderful man in Sweden named Magnus. He helped to update me on the Scandinavian horror scene.

I’ve looked up many of these he listed and put an asterisk near ones on Netflix. I did this because, if Netflix has them, they probably are on DVD here.

*“Hidden” Kai Koss (Kristoffer Joner) returns to his family's eerie woodland estate and makes plans to sell the house, hoping to put the memories of his tragic childhood behind him. But a presence even more wicked than his abusive mother has taken up residence in the place. Pål Øie (Dark Woods) writes and directs this atmospheric horror flick from Norway. Karin Park, Arthur Berning and Bjarte Hjelmeland co-star.

* "Room 205" The excitement college student Katrine (Neel Rønholt) feels about her move to a new dorm is short-lived when she discovers that the room once belonged to a student who was brutally murdered several years prior. When a series of mysterious and gruesome accidents befall several residents of the dorm, Katrine begins to suspect that the ghost of Room 205 has emerged, looking for vengeance -- but no one believes her.

*"Cold Prey 1 & 2" These are slasher ones that either you like or don’t like. Not terribly memorable, but not horrible either. Just middle of the road.

*"The Substitute" (Vikaren)
Something about the new sixth-grade substitute just isn't quite right. Even though she's managed to charm all the parents, the students are convinced that Ulla's (Paprika Steen) cold, eccentric, mind-reading behavior is anything but normal. When they discover that their new sub is actually a menacing alien, Carl (Jonas Wandschneider) and the rest of the students band together to thwart her evil plans.

*"Skeleton Crew" Decades after a sinister psychiatrist murdered his patients and captured the grisly acts on film, a small movie crew returns to the now-shuttered mental institution to shoot a thriller based on the actual events. But when the original snuff films are found, the script gets a grisly rewrite. Mesmerized by the shocking footage, director Steven (Steve Porter) vows to make his film more real and gives every crew member a role to die for.

"Drowning Ghost" (Strandvaskaren) A hundred years ago, three students at the Hellestads Boarding School were brutally slaughtered, the murderer drowned himself in a lake nearby and his body was never found. The story has become a legend for generations of students as well as a yearly festivity. Sara, a student, is writting an essay based on the legend and uncovers new facts from the event that will cast dark shadows on the family name of one of the school's main benificiaries. On the night of the hundreth anniversary, the festivities go awry, students disappear and something dark and unknown is moving through the schools corridors...

Magnus mentioned that the director of my favorite zombie battle scene in a movie “Dead Snow” is doing an American film “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and he just finished a Norwegian parody of Blair Witch.

So, as you can imagine, my Netflix is packed and that’s a good thing cause it’s freaking hot here and I just want to hibernate. Hope you enjoy them too. So far, my fav’s of my Northern Relatives have been:

“Let the Right One In” (my favorite vampire movie)
“Sauna” (one of my favorite horror movies ever)
“Frostbiten” (very 80s feeling slasher and unsettling)
“Dead Snow” (best zombie battle ever in all creation)


  1. Amazing list. The only movie I've seen from this list is dead snow. I really enjoyed that one, however.

  2. That trailer looked good--definitely going to check that out. "Sauna" and "Let the Right One In" were so amazing! I think you'd really enjoy Sauna. It's not just beautiful but the character study is amazing!

  3. Haven't seen Sauna yet (have meant to), but loved Frostbitten, Dead Snow and Let the Right One In. I'll have to check the others out.

    There's a Belgian flick called Left Bank (OK, it's not Scandinavian, sue me) that I rather enjoyed. The story isn't particularly original and many reviewers didn't particularly like it, but there is a nice grimness to it that is both comfortable and unsettling at the same time. I also quite enjoyed some of the characters.

    It probably has a little bit of that Frenchiness in it, but since the outcome is predictable for the most part (perhaps not totally), I don't think the philosophizing is too overblown.

  4. Pangs;
    You will love "Sauna." To me, it's epic. A lot of folks couldn't figure out the ending, but honestly the movie is so true to the look and feel of the northern part of Sweden and the 15th century, I believe...the characters are amazing and I admit I had a monster crush on the evil brother-not particularly handsome or nice, but there was something about the gristled old warrior that attracted my attention. The cinematography is beautiful and the concept of the sauna being a place to face your past and your guilt. It was really creepy and cool. I am going to check on that Belgian one and I'm not a snob about what country did it, though I admit from now on if it's Japanese, I'll probably pass. I gave them a really good try and they just don't jive with me. I need a good deal of beautiful moody cinematography, grim dark moods and characters that are not cookie cutter. You could tell any story with those elements and I'm happy. Jeez, Pangs, you are a well rounded horror watcher.