Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #141
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 26 September 2012 (Lund Fantastisk Film Festival), 9 August 2013 (Sweden)
Country of Origin: Sweden
Budget: 300. 000 SEK
Box Office: 460. 000 SEK
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Sonny Laguna,Tommy Wiklund
Producers: Tommy Wiklund, David Liljeblad
Screenplay: Sonny Laguna,Tommy Wiklund, David Liljeblad
Special Effects: David Liljeblad, Lars Lundgren, Leo Thörn, Tommy Wiklund
Visual Effects: Sonny Laguna
Cinematography: Tommy Wiklund
Score: Samir El Alaoui
Editing: David Liljeblad, Tommy Wiklund
Studio: Stockholm Syndrome Film
Distributors: Njutafilms, Artsplotation, NonStop Entertainment
Stars: Patrik Almkvist, Lisa Henni, Johannes Brost, Patrick Saxe, Amanda Renberg, Max Wallmo, Jessica Blomkvist, Anna Henriksson, Ingar Sigvardsdotter, Ralf Beck, Sanna Ekman, Julia Knutson
Suggested Audio Candy
 Roque Baños “Exorcism”
 Björk “It’s Oh So Quiet”
I’ve never really been one for following convention. It’s not that I’m particularly rebellious or looking to buck trends just to upset the apple cart but freedom of speech allows me to forget what the Joneses are up to and walk a different path on occasion. Take my film appraisals for example, I have no great desire to tackle each film in the precise manner that every other pompous “critic” does and prefer to find a unique way in which to voice my opinion. Thus, I have decided to attempt something totally out-of-the-box when introducing you to our next offering from our Scandinavian friends. My approach will be unorthodox in the extreme and perhaps won’t offer the same kind of enlightenment my readership will have come to expect but I’m in for a penny and a pound also so why not give it a crack?
Let’s begin at the start shall we? You see, I was recently gestating in a friend’s unholy crib and we were searching for a way to pass the time. He suggested a Swedish film he had acquired by the name of Wither (or woefully renamed Cabin of The Dead outside of its native country) and, aware that the Swedes have a fairly nifty grasp of horror, my ears pricked up instantly. My buddy went on to elaborate that it was an Evil Dead-style gore fest and, given that I had recently had the pleasure of Fede Alvarez’s rock solid reboot, I naturally released a few drops of love piss. More of that delicious dish? Count me in and get ready to serve up seconds straight afterwards as I’ve been known for my insatiable appetite when an abandoned cabin and dash of demonic possession are involved. Talk about a sweetener, I was all in with my pair of 6’s well before the flop was even necessitated.
Things took a further turn for the better when he booted the disc up and I was greeted by three words that roughly translate to I Love You. As the logo for Stockholm Syndrome Films bled onto the screen before me, deja vu manifested itself and it took a few moments to suss out their relevance. Where had I heard that name before? It was like a mental game of Guess Who. No ‘tache, glasses, alban hair, facial mole…it’s gotta be Pam right? Then it hit me square in the face with all the force of a concrete dildo as two more words flashed up in similarly stylish calligraphy and a little more crimson seeped to the tip of my quill. Sonny Laguna. My mind deduced the answer to this next riddle in just shy of a picosecond. This dude was responsible for presenting us the glorious Blood Runs Cold. Fuck a duck in a dump truck and name it Chuck. My high-pitched squeal of delight said it all plus change.
If you’ve not been formally introduced to Blood Runs Cold, then allow me to fill in the blanks. This magnanimous slasher made its transition from seed to breed for around $5k which one would expect to be insufficient funds right? Now watch it and tell me that Laguna wasn’t owed a truck-load of favors. How he managed to fashion such a classy, extravagant piece of work on such a meager kitty will be a mystery I’ll likely still ponder during my ultimate death throes. From stylized opening titles to final swing of the ax, it exhibits no lack of resource. I rated it 7/10 but don’t be fooled as its achievements are nigh-on off-the-scale when you apply the necessary perspective. I remember my precise thoughts as the end credits rolled and they amounted to “I’ve got my eye on you Sonny”. True to form, our paths were about to meet once more and the mere thought had me frothing from the mouth like a Catholic priest in a confessional booth.
I informed my associate that my love honey had fled its receptacle and we collectively rubbed our palms together at the proposition in question. This time round, the budget was just over $30k which may seem a drop in the ocean to some. However, to Laguna and his right hand men Tommy Wiklund and David Liljeblad, who can bargain like fishwives at a flea market, rest assured that’s plentiful. This additional cash injection translates to a film almost twenty minutes longer and proposing far more of the delectable red stuff that he had dished up once already. My swollen member was beginning to obscure my vantage so I inhaled a deep breath, recalled the scene from The Shining after the naked vixen had soaked a little too long in the tub, and steadied the ship as we sailed off in crimson waters to collect our bounty.
The credits faded out and, within a few seconds, dialogue had begun dancing towards my eardrums. This is where it all went flaccid. My gormless travel companion had negated to check the language options beforehand and my Swedish is not all that hot, if truth be known. Thank God for subtitles right? What do you mean there are none? This was a travesty and a tsunami of angst washed over me as this left two available options. Either we halt our march and spend the rest of the evening sobbing like six-year-olds with grazed knees or… we press on regardless and wing it. I accessed the mother brain and said muscle supplied a swift and decisive response. PRESS ON! Done. Any other movie would likely not have risked being hampered by a lack of cohesive audio but the other option seemed far less appealing. It was unthinkable to contemplate turning back as too much was already invested.
While clearly my bar of expectation would need to be readjusted slightly, this unfortunate turn of events actually presented an exclusive opportunity for me to go against the grain. Consider the upshot, this will be a largely spoiler-free appraisal and, by completion, you’ll be primed to go forth and seek this bad boy out yourselves (paying attention to the language options before making that purchase of course). Granted, my experience would be somewhat tarnished by not being able to understand a fucking word of what is going on and invest so much in the characters but, if Blood Runs Cold is anything to go by, dialogue won’t exactly be of Quentin Tarantino standards so I’d muddle by as best as I could.
Mercifully, the plot doesn’t take a degree in neuroscience to work out. Young love birds Albin (Patrik Almkvist) and Ida (Lisa Henni) head off to a remote cabin in the Swedish highlands for a nice relaxing break with her brother Simon (Patrick Saxe) and friends Marcus (Max Wallmo), Tove (Anna Henriksson) and Marie (Jessica Blomkvist) in tow. However, what they haven’t banked on is the legend of The Vættr, a cantankerous demon with the ability to steal the souls of its victims just by flashing them its blackened eyes. That’s pretty much all I’ve got which is fine as that’s pretty much all you’ll need going forward. Basically, we’re in familiar territory and The Vættr is the Swedish equivalent of a Deadite. Needless to say, all bloody hell breaks loose as a fucked up case of “the fever” begins to spread through the group like wildfire. Eyes roll back into heads, rage ensues, people die horribly. Nuff said.
What is most notable here is Laguna’s understanding of what feeds our fears. He can set a scene like an old hand and drags out the tension sufficiently to draw us in through more visceral means. Shooting to kill like William Tell on beta-blockers, his insular locale oozes with dark flavor, while his steady hand is evident from start to end. Through this he manages what many struggle to achieve with many times his budgetary allowance. Wither is every bit as fast-paced as expected and fills its 96 minute running time effortlessly, with a pace that never once slackens once it achieves full stride.
Does it mark a progression from Blood Runs Cold? Well it’s appeal is certainly more widespread, there’s way more grue and better production values so all signs point to yes. Are there comparisons to be drawn with the Evil Dead reboot? Does Mr. Bear wank in the woods when Mrs. Bear’s back is turned? For starters it is set in a cabin. Then there’s the whole possession angle. However, it is worth noting that Wither first splattered onto the scene in 2012 before Alvarez’s film had even arrived. Of course, the language barrier poses a slight problem but, that said, “Oh my God, we’re all gonna die” is easily discernible in any tongue and once the party is in full swing, I was enjoying myself way too much to give even a quarter of a hoot. To be honest, should I have been born sixty years previous, then every film I watched would be silent so I consider myself lucky. All I can say is, thank the heavens above that my mother’s warnings about excessive masturbation leading to blindness proved unfounded.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: The grue really is top-notch, Laguna has proved already (and on a far smaller budget) that he has an eye for splatter and cranks it up to eleven here. There are standout moments too numerous to mention. Heads are callously carved away from muscle-tissue without cut-aways, upper lips bitten off, noggins hollowed out, cruor puked in faces – it’s a joyous affair not a country mile away from Evil Dead and we know Alvarez wasn’t exactly shy with the deep red relish.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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