Unlike us Americans, Norwegian folks seem to find pleasure in making exactly the kind of films they want to make, as opposed to the kind a studio executive thinks people want to see. This artistic freedom is greatly esteemed, and the decision to craft stories out of love — as opposed to dollar signs — is wildly evident in their final products.
Norwegian filmmakers are creating, not mimicking, and in a cinematic landscape that often sports a dearth of ingenuity, these amazing auteurs are pumping out the very kinds of pictures we loyal fans crave… especially in the realm of horror.
Just take a look at this small handful of Norwegian horror productions that put the bulk of Hollywood’s genre creations to complete and total shame… then be sure to track them down (if you haven’t already added them to your home library already) and watch them ASAP.
Zip up your parka and get ready to feel the chill…
COLD PREY (2006)
COLD PREY (a.k.a. FRITT VILT) is the contemporary answer to John Carpenter’s beloved classic HALLOWEEN. On its surface, the film is little more than a ruthless slasher outing… but there are intricacies to each character’s personality, and the bulk of the performers do a strong job of veering from familiar clichés. The picture’s villain remains shrouded — rarely do we get a glimpse of the mammoth manhunter who’s been calling an abandoned hotel his home, happy to prey upon any skiers or tourists who may inadvertently stumble upon the dilapidated building. The tension is very much alive, and the pacing of the picture is brilliant. COLD PREY isn’t just one of the very best Norwegian films in existence — it’s one of the greatest slashers the world has yet to discover.
COLD PREY II (2008)
Surprised to see a sequel land on this list? Don’t be! Norwegians seem to understand what it takes to craft a sequel that keeps the story moving in a logical direction. Remember that HALLOWEEN comparison? It shines even brighter here, as the story seems to follow the blueprints made in preparation of the original sequel to HALLOWEEN. The heroine, Jannicke — a total and complete badass, who would no doubt make Jamie Lee Curtis proud — wakes in a hospital ward, the lone survivor of her ordeal with that sinister murderer. But that villain, along with the bodies of Jannicke’s friends, have all been hauled to the hospital as well… where the big homicidal bastard is revived. What ensues is a damn near shot-for-shot reimagining of HALLOWEEN II: all the action unfolds within this hospital, as the antagonist stalks and slays all those in his path — save for a pair of astoundingly resilient young ladies. From the lighting to the camerawork to the use of location, this film is a beautiful ode to HALLOWEEN II.
Nailing a found footage home run isn’t an easy feat. André Øvredal clearly has a grasp on the subgenre, as he’s given us not just a stellar found footage feature, but an amazing comic fantasy with some awe-inspiring creatures. Visually speaking, the picture is gorgeous — the visual effects team absolutely crushes the ball with hulking creatures that could have easily looked embarrassingly cartoonish. That doesn’t happen, thankfully; the trolls look amazing, the tension never once wavers, and we quickly find ourselves wrapped up in the lives of our little documentary crew that opts to trail a seasoned troll hunter. That hunter, for the record, is a brilliant character — firm, yet compassionate and intelligent. Did I mention the film features an amazing “Hulk smash” bridge scene? Yeah, TROLLHUNTER is worth a look for that scene alone… everything else is just astounding bonus material.
THALE (“Tail”) is an extremely strange film; it’s essentially a modern-day fairy tale, albeit without pretty creatures or mystical plot points. This one breathes freely due to the excellent chemistry between the film’s two protagonists, Elvis and Leo — they’re offbeat, with an odd sense of humor. When they discover a creature that is most certainly not human, they’re put in a compromising situation: Do they haul this beast from her ramshackle confines, or do they grant the strange creature freedom? It’s an impressive story and the aesthetics are crisp, nailing a phantasmagoric beauty that serves as a reminder that fairy tales can often be creepy, compelling and extremely magnetic.
DEAD SNOW (2009)
Face it — you can’t craft a Norwegian horror film article and omit DEAD SNOW. Tommy Wirkola’s batshit crazy project involves Nazi zombies rising from their icy graves on a mission to kill anyone who happens to stumble along their hidden treasure. A small group of vacationers just so happens to discover the loot… and that’s not good luck for them; in fact, it’s a death wish. The carnage that quickly ensues is graphic, over-the-top hilarious, and absolutely unforgettable. Limbs are torn to pieces, skulls are crushed like ripe watermelons, and all that ultra-violence comes at the rotting hands of long-dead Nazi scumbags. Come on — how can you not find a film of this nature amazing?
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (2014)
Here’s another sublime sequel: Everything that Tommy Wirkola accomplished with his first DEAD SNOW film, he improves upon this time around. RED VS. DEAD ramps up the comedy considerably, introduces a whole new slew of zombie warriors (led by awesome and imposing performer Derek Mears), births an extremely unlikely hero, introduces a brilliant comedic zombie and, through it all, keeps the blood spraying everywhere. If you’re looking for a rare example of a sequel that decidedly trumps its predecessor, you absolutely have to tune in to DEAD SNOW 2.