Dir. and written by Aleksander L. Nordaas
Starring Silje Reinåmo, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard
PRINCE AVALANCHE* with elves, only less so. Two cleaning workers who specialize in gruesome postmortem body removal (often using sponges instead of stretchers) stumble upon a mysterious hidden room in an abandoned house. Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) is stoic to the point of catatonic fugue, Elvis (Erlend Nervold) is a bit greener (especially around liquified human remains) and is just generally unbelievably incompetent, demonstrating poor decision-making skills that would make Darby Crash drop his jaw. So these are probably not the two best people to be dealing with a situation which increasing looks pretty sinister, particularly when it becomes obvious that the previous owner of the house has been keeping someone locked up in a hidden room for quite a long time, with the intention of performing bizarre medical experiments (what is this, a TUSK prequel?). And even more so when the subject of said experiments (Silje Reinåmo, “Ms. Calabash” in BRATZ: THE MOVIE?) suddenly appears, naked and alive, out of a vat of milky mystery liquid.
This is a cool scenario, and for a while it produces a real nice, subtle creepy tension. Just what the fuck is going on here? What the hell have these know-nothings stumbled into here, and what are the consequences going to be? Gradually, we learn more and more about the mystery woman (named Thale) who just may be one of the legendary huldra of Scandinavian folklore. But how did she come to be imprisoned in this hidden laboratory? Inquiring minds want to know. With a premise this strange and sordid, the film can afford to linger a little and build suspense.
Unfortunately, it does more than linger a little; it positively loiters, and the absolutely glacial pace dulls the urgency of the mystery quite a bit. There may be a right time to incessantly linger menacingly in slow motion on people’s faces while Enya knockoff music plays, but that time is not the entire first hour of an enticing mystery. Eventually it becomes painfully clear that this is merely an intriguing premise with no intention of actually building to anything. Even at a barely feature-length 76 minutes, there’s simply not enough narrative here to sustain a whole film. It just ends up being unforgivably uneventful, and a late-in-the-game twist undermines a lot of the sinister setup anyway. Towards the very end, something finally happens, and there are even a couple laudably fun kills, but it’s not nearly enough to excuse the time wasted before it.
It’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot to like. Director Nordaas creates a wonderfully perverse atmosphere, bursting with real-world grime and menacing detail work**. The acting is quite good across the board, and there’s a nice sense of pitch-black deadpan Norwegian humor, particularly at the beginning. And of course, there’s no denying that this is a great, totally unique premise. Everything here is genuinely well-done and even laudable, except there’s just not enough of it to comprise a feature length film. Edit this down to a workable 20 minute short, though, and you might have something genuinely special. It’s neat to see some new ideas for horror premises, especially when they touch on folklore and cultural customs we don’t see on film all that often, but hopefully for his next movie Nordaas remembers to include a story and not just a setup.
*Or EITHER WAY, if you want to go the original Norwegian route.
**And for a reported cost of a palty $10,000 bucks, the movie looks better than most movies with literally hundreds of times that budget.