FROSTBITE (OCTOBER 1ST)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Frostbite is one of those movies that I purchased during those days where I blind bought titles that either a) looked mildly interesting b) had got good reviews or c) cost less than £5. Frostbite kind of ticked all those boxes.
I'd be lying if I said that Scandinavian horror doesn't appeal. That part of the world has produced some real horror gems in recent years; Think Dead Snow, Trollhunter, Let the Right One in, Cold Prey. Anders Banke's Frostbite (2006) does not make this list unfortunately, however that's not to say there aren't things to like about this rather droll horror-comedy. Back in Sweden it was met with a rather lukewarm response upon its release, although internationally it fared a lot better – with Bloody Disgusting labelling it as a 'masterpiece' – an opinion not shared by myself I have to say! Although after recent claims that Aranofsky's mother! is a masterpiece, who knows what makes it into that category any more – anyway that's another story!
The film begins in Ukraine during WW2, where a small group of Nazi SS soldiers (some of them Swedish) are fleeing the Red Army. They stumble upon a cabin in the woods but unfortunately neither Bruce Campbell or Chris Hemsworth inside. They decide to stay but are attacked during the night by what appears to be a vampire. We then flash-forward to the present day and join a mother and daughter (Annika and Saga) who have just relocated to Lappland. However, they have moved in during the beginning of the Polar Night, meaning there is hardly any sunlight for the next month or so. Perfect vampire conditions eh? And it isn't long before inhabitants of the small settlement start to go missing...
Sounds a bit like a cross between Dead Snow and 30 Days of Night doesn't it? Well yeah, that is kind of what this is – albeit, it's not as tense or as funny as either of those movies. Striking the right balance between horror and comedy is not an easy thing for sure, and Frostbite does have its moments. However you are left with the feeling that if they had opted for a straight horror movie, it might have resulted in a stronger movie. This did predate 30 Days of Night – so it's not as if the whole 'small Arctic settlement gets invaded by vampires' thing had been done to death or anything. There are still a couple of laughs to be had here but the Swedes are known for having a very dry sense of humour – and at times it is so dry you aren't always sure if it's meant to be funny or not. Someone on an experimental drug having a conversation with a dog is amusing, sure – as is someone meeting their end via a gnome. But a vampire eating an old lady's pet dog? There are a lot of grey areas here!
One things to be praised however is the practical and special effects. It's all pretty impressive stuff and wouldn't be out of place in a bigger and more expensive Hollywood production. The vampires themselves look like a cross between a crawler from Neil Marshall's The Descent and those blood-suckers from The Strain. However, although we get our fair share of bloodshed, Frostbite is never really builds up any real sense of tension or suspense – apart from the opening scene maybe. The films focus on inserting wit and humour into proceedings unfortunately comes at the expense of atmosphere – and also characterisation. Although Emma Vaberg delivers an intersting performance as Saga's witchy new friend., the rest of the characters are somewhat underdeveloped and we spend too long in the company of certain characters who are neither particularly likeable – or that interesting. The ending is also a little underwhelming too. You feel that an action packed and gore filled finale might be on the cards but it doesn't really happen.
Still, the film does tick along at a nice pace and it's not guilty of ever being boring during it's 100 minute running time. If you're into Nordic horror and have a wry sense of humour you will probably quite like this. I just wish it had commited to a definite tone rather than attempting to cover too many bases. A solid if unspectacular start to the 31 day challenge. I'm sure I'll encounter better (and worse) films in the days and weeks ahead!