(Note: This article was written late 2008/early 2009 and will be updated when I have the time)
Weird things are happening way up in the Nordic countries. Film history is being written. Things are changing. Scandinavia is no longer synonymous with dark, depressing art-house dramas. The Bergman complex is gone. Suddenly, Scandinavians realized they are pretty good at horror – and critics and festival audiences around the world agree. Scandinavian horror is da shit!
If you’ve read my article “Swede Terror“, you know there have been quite a few Swedish horror movies the last 80 years. There was even a little horror boom in Denmark in the mid 1990s, but it died rather quickly. However, since year 2006, things are different – very different.
It all started with Anders Banke’s Swedish vampire comedy Frostbiten (Frostbite in the U.K., Frostbitten in the U.S.) in early 2006, a glossy, FX filled romp that won several awards and was sold to 45 countries.
After Frostbite, it seems like Sweden is the new vampire capital. Two more vampire flicks opened during 2008. Vampyrer (Not Like Others) by Peter Pontikis is the first Swedish feature from NonStop Entertainment. The film was made on a shoestring, and even though it’s rather short, its 75 minutes are very slow and draggy. It’s one of the worst vampire films ever and it bombed at the box office.
But then came Låt den rätte komma in (Let the right one in), a huge critical success, not only in Sweden but all over the world. Director Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John Ajvide Linqvist’s bestseller has won several awards and Alfredson has been interviewed by all the major horror magazines – not to mention regular movie magazines.
Still waiting for distribution is Anders Jacobsson’s low-budget splatter flick Insain, a Swedish film that doesn’t feature any vampires.
Let’s cross the bridge and go to Denmark. Ole Bornedal was the guy who started the earlier horror boom in Denmark with Nattevagten (Nightwatch) in 1994. And now his back in the genre with the horror comedy Vikaren (The Substitute, 2007) which isn’t a remake of the Tom Berenger action movie of the same name. No, in this one, popular actress Paprika Steen (from several Dogme movies) is a teacher – from outer space.
Another Danish film is Kollegiet (Room 205) by Martin Barnewitz. This one is a ghost story about a 19-year-old girl who moves to a new dormitory that turns out to be haunted.
Both Vikaren and Kollegiet have recently been released on DVD in the U.S. – they were picked up by Sam Raimi’s company Ghost House Underground, which of course is pretty cool and great for the filmmakers.
Another movie Ghost House picked up, is the Finnish Dark Floors – a horror film starring the Finnish metal band Lordi, as demons wearing their stage make-up. Lordi was a sensation, when they surprisingly won the Eurovision Song Contest! Dark Floors is in English and was produced by Finland’s superproducer Marcus Selin. Unfortunately, the Lordi movie isn’t very good.
Sauna is a perfect title for a film from Finland. Before Sauna, director Antti-Jussi Annila made the Finnish martial arts movie (!) Jade Warrior, which was good looking but pretty bad. Sauna is something completely different. In this great looking film, Swedish and Russian soldiers end up in a small, creepy village in a swamp in Finland.
…And then we get to Norway – and Norway is apparently the place where the craziest horror fans live. In 2006, Fritt Vilt (Cold Prey) opened – an 80s style slasher set in the snowy Norwegian mountains. A gang of young snowboarders are stalked and killed. And in 2008, the sequel Fritt Vilt II (Cold Prey II) arrived, directed by a Swede; Mats Stenberg. This sequel was a huge success in its home country and was seen by more than 238.000 people (and yes, Norway is a small country) in two weeks.
If you want hardcore horror, Norway is the place to be. 2008 also saw Rovdyr (Manhunt), a low-budget film about a couple of kids who get lost in the woods, where they are stalked, tortured and killed in the most gruesome ways. And if you’re into that kind of stuff, just wait for the upcoming low-budget rape and revenge exploitation flick Hora (Whore) by the appropriately named Reinert Kiil. The teaser trailer and stills promise some truly nasty images.
And of course: we mustn’t forget Død Snø (Dead Snow) – the Norwegian Nazi-zombie-action-comedy, that has been chosen for next year’s Sundance festival.
Things are looking good for Scandinavian horror. Because this is just the beginning. Just wait and see…
Check out the IMDb pages for these movies for more information and trailers: