Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sauna

Scandinavian Horror seems to be the latest trend of late, much like Japanese Horror was in the late nineties. (More on that in a future post perhaps.) Død Snø came out earlier this year from Norway; giving Tarantino a run on who could be more “over the top” offensive using Nazi’s for gruesome humor. It was pretty visually stunning, actually, snow covered mountain forests full of uniformed Zombies.

What Scandinavian Horror seems to be shaping up to be, though, is more of an intellectual endeavor, horror that tends to unsettle and get you thinking over shocks and scares. Last year’s Sauna is a good example. (OK Finland isn’t exactly Scandinavian, just go with it.)

The story revolves around two brothers who are representing their government in settling the border between Finland and Russia after a long fought war. They begin the movie doing something very evil and are pursued by guilt (quite literally) as their journey progresses. In the middle of an uncharted swamp they encounter a village built around a sauna. After that they are occupied with questions like: Why is there only one child in the village? Why is everyone so clean? Where did the Monks who founded the village disappear to all those years ago? Why will no one go near the sauna? And who is the ghost that has been following them and what does she want?

There are some classic jumps and genuinely creepy moments in this film, but not enough for your standard horror audience today. This is a more traditional, gothic morality play that raises questions and explores issues of guilt, atonement, and faith. All are strange issues to be coming from a Northern European mentality. Guilt? Really?

Unfortunately, one gets the idea that the creators not only don’t give any answers to these questions (which would be alright), but that they had no idea where the plot of their story was headed by the time they got to the end.

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