There's something about Scandinavian movies; this completely deadpan sense of absurdity where you're not sure if they really take themselves that seriously or if they just know satire that much better than the rest of us dolts.
I've recently had the pleasure of watching Toll Hunter (which was less terrible than I imagined it would be) and Rare Exports (which was very enjoyable and fairly unique.) Both movies seem to benefit from a significantly richer mythologically based culture then we have here in the US; each skillfully tackling our "misconceptions" about fantasy characters - transforming them into terrifying, nightmare creatures. It's as though these movies call us out on our complacency, warning us that the diluted versions of fairytales that we tell ourselves are making us vulnerable and stupid.
As a side note, last month's direct to video pick (Absentia) actually could fall into this bucket as well.
I also find it interesting that our nerdy generation has moved into a position of power (so to speak) in terms of dictating (or demanding) the types of media being produced. Aside from the overwhelming flood of comic book movies, we're seeing things like fairytales cropping up everywhere.
So anyway, chew on that for a bit while we take a quick look at each of these flicks.
Troll HunterThe $.25 version: some college kids investigate a couple of killings, in the process they discover a country-wide cover up of trolls (and other mythological creatures?)
First blush? I anticipated painfully bad, low-budget shlock. And while I do feel like the plot was a little sloppy and the movie itself went on a little longer than I really needed it to. It really wasn't that bad.
Part of me feels like it was incredibly brave to make this movie in the (all too trendy) "found footage" style (as it's already worn out it's welcome with most audiences) but, on the other hand I can't write enough good things about a well conceived (and carried out) "mockumentary."
One of the things that really sold this movie was the absolute commitment everyone gave to it: the actors were as serious as the kids from Blair Witch. The other thing that really worked about this movie was the gore factor: I actually found myself a little bit surprised by how graphic this movie turned out to be.
Keep this brief, check it out if you have some free time and a burning desire to keep up with the post-modern fantasy genre.
Rare ExportsThe $.25 version: "scientists" dig up Santa Claus and he's not as warm and snuggly as we have been led to believe.
I found myself utterly charmed by the esthetics of this movie, even before I watched it; the textures, the colors, the set design, the costuming, everything about this movie is pleasantly kitschy and warm and charmingly Christmasy. Okay. I know. I KNOW! You're jaded and cynical (like me) and there's nothing about this description that's warming your icy black heart but, please! Trust me on this one. If Yankee Candle takes holiday charm too far, Rare Exports is the ideal, Norman Rockwell, picture-perfect holiday look.
Juxtapose that perfection with a very dark, very twisted fairytale beast (otherwise known as "Santa Claus") and you have a pretty entertaining movie.
Growing up in a Jewish household, I never had any particular fuzzy feelings about Santa and I always had this knowledge that he wasn't a "real" being but that didn't keep me from feeling as though he was a creepy being. So, I really love the idea that Santa Claus is some terrible, evil creature that feeds on children.
That aside - about 95% of the movie was a pretty straight up horror flick and then - then things get kind of... silly. When the main characters round up all the elves and start selling them as Santas I found myself laughing along with the strangeness of the situation.
And just as a side note: If you remember my direct to video post where I was a little harsh on the kid from Satan's Little Helper - I have to write about how completely awesome the lead child actor is in Rare Exports. I loved him.
All in all, the movie is charming and unique and worth a watch.
Wrap up time?
Seems like the Scandinavians are trying to overthrow the Canadians as the world's best horror producers. We'll see how that goes.
And for a final note - I'll be adding "shopping lists" to blogs from here on out. We'll see how that works for you guys.