Set inside the conflict of World War II, a strayed former SS lieutenant and a German paratrooper must band together and escort a Norwegian captive through the snow covered forest of the frigid Norwegian mountains. Venturing through the cold and soulless landscape, the lieutenant is baffled by his bearings as his map doesn’t correlate with his surroundings, the sun is positioned at the opposite direction, and their compass points in the wrong direction. Faced with the possibility of gangrene and hypothermia, the lost combatants are forced to take up camp in a seemingly abandoned house that fly’s a hoisted Norwegian flag and has a pot of stew left simmering on a stove burner. Their already puzzling arrival into the residence is also met with unexplainable occurrences that place the extremely cold and weary soldiers even more so on an overwrought edge as they continuously search the house of presence telling life signs. Shadows and sounds trick their senses, soon realizing that the cozy confines are an inhospitable prison and with the deadly cold nipping at the doorstep, the soldiers are left with no choice but to face a sinister absence of time inside a hostile house that toys with their psyche and questions their own mortal existence.
Quickly becoming Norway’s prominent horror filmmaker, Reinert Kiil found success with his controversial and provocative “Whore” films and had a well-received review at Its Bloggin’ Evil for his cheerfully grisly, holiday slasher classic, “Christmas Blood.” Artsploitation Films continues to wholeheartedly support the Norway born director with his next venture, the supernaturally-charged possession of a home-sweet-home feature entitled simply “The House’ or “Huset” as titled in the original tongue. Kiil typically trends with shock horror, but with “The House,” there is an expansion upon his range as a filmmaker while remaining in a field he’s finds most endearing, pulling inspiration from his childhood memory vault of B-movie horror schlock and nostalgia grandeur, and dapples with replacing his guts and gory showmanship with slowly developing and instilling fear, especially with fear of the unknown and fear of change. Audiences are going to be attached to the hip and entrenched with the German soldiers, clueless to their predicament and anxious for them with the house’s uncanny and perplexing animosity, and Kiil doesn’t show much right away, slowly simmering the taut chills lined meticulously in the story.
Paratrooper Andres Fleiss is introduced in the preface attempting to save his mortally wounded friend and brother in arms, Max. Fleiss’s passion greatly motivates him as he jump out of a plane first rather than assess whether he has a parachute on first, willing to assign blame and kill Rune, Norwegian captive, right away without any provocation as instant relief and gratification. You see, Rune didn’t kill Max and, in fact, no exposition is provided about how the three men arrived at preface’s point in time, standing on a snowy side of a mountain just on the outskirts of a forest edge. Frederik von Luttichau (“A Room to Die For”) incites the paratrooper’s sense of duty and sense of irrationality. Luttichau’s able to quickly switch gears from confident combatant to a frightened bumbling idiot whose trapped inside a complete mind scramble of a situation. Fleiss is juxtaposed against the cooler head of a commissioned officer, Lieutenant Jurgen Kreiner. The former architect from Munich uses his SS training to tranquil the anxiety; so much so that Kreiner has a strange habit of protecting Rune from expiring much to the displeasure of Fleiss. Mats Reinhardt, in his sophomore film, is a juggernaut of emotional suppression. The rigid actor perfectly suits Kreiner’s stoic rationality toward not only the malevolent shelter, but also to Fleiss’s thin patience. Both characters’ melancholy is confounding as you start to feel for these Nazi soldiers stuck in a state of limbo and Kiil writes their roles down a personal level that expresses guilt, sadness, and shame that lets you know that they’re human too, humans who have done terrible things that have become their undoing. The Norway solider, Rune, is an important piece to the puzzlement. With his background unexplained and role in the house’s occurrences, Rune becomes an integrated symbol of subtle vengeance; even Rune, in the origin sense of the word, is defined as a secret mystery. Rune, or Runes, can also imply a set of symbols in archaic German languages much like the ones used on the closet door in the house or at the title screen. The mysterious Norwegian is subjected to being always hurt, whether a bout with gangrene or being shot, Rune ceases to cease. “Christman Blood’s” Sondre Krogtoft Larsen perforates the two opposes forces as a well-executed deceitful key to the mystery and though Rune doesn’t fully explain the entirety of the house’s backstory, Larsen simply quantifies the a potential reason with his the character’s simplicity role in it all. Other character flow in and out of the story as either a flashback or a vision and they include performances from Evy Kasseth Rosten (“Dead Snow”), Sigmund Saeverud (“Christmas Blood”), Ingvild Flikkerud, and Espen Edvartsen (“Dead Snow 2”).
There are other “House” reviews that compare Kiil’s film to the likes of “The Exorcist” or an exorcist type film and while the German soldier’s narrative is spliced with a flashback sub-story of a priest performance the rites of exorcism on a young girl inside the “House,” labeling the film as such warrants a rebranding. These flashback scenes, that are not consecutive, sluggishly rolls out a bit piece in the house’s backstory that almost predates the 20th century (the trailer suggests 1901), but doesn’t, in my opinion, obviously explain all that’s happening to the soldiers forty years later. Fleiss said it best during a frantic moment when the paratrooper comes to a full realization that the reason their stuck in an unescapable phenomena is because he and Lt. Kreiner are dead. Sometimes the more blatant reason is perhaps the more conclusive as Kiil offers a breadcrumb trail to point out these two Nazi soldiers are in oblivion of atonement. From the very beginning, the three men couldn’t explain how they came together, every facet of direction is obscured, time ceases to exist, their most inner desires and offenses bubble to the surface, and even Fleiss mentions the soup, the one simmer on the burner upon their arrive, is bland to the taste for the dead have no need for senses. In short, the momentary exorcist scenes are fathomable, perhaps in-depth more with the dated slideshow series of events in the Scandes, but, in context, cheapens the film slightly and could go easily as “The House” is inherently soul crushing and effectively atmospheric.
Artsploitation Films and Reel Suspects presents Rinert Kiil’s “House,” a product of Sanctum Films, onto DVD home video. The release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot digitally that idyllically compositions Norway’s Norefjell snowy mountain range of the Scandes. The opening title sequence has some image instability with faint pixel fluttery in the compression, but doesn’t seem to go beyond the barely visible stage. “House” isn’t a flashy conceived concept that renders a lot of texture or detail warranted scenes, but darker scenes are overly rich with black that interpreting the visuals more difficult and as a note on one of Kiil’s visional techniques on being outside in or at night, like when Fleiss is hoisting the Nazi flag, the obvious tinted lens isn’t a reasonable substitute for dusk, dawn, and night. Skin tones are a pleasantly raw in appearance and, hey, the lighting in the snow is great for obvious reasons. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is hands down the past technical feature with an engrossing atmosphere track that has depth and range to send the audible senses hiding in fear underneath the comfy blanket. The intertwining German, Norwegian, and English language tracks holds strong and upfront with clear and precise synchronization of paralleling subtitles, offered solely in English, and Kim Berg and and Levi Gawrock Troite’s powerful score portrays a film bigger than it’s budget. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes segment, an interview with Reinert Kiil who discusses his trek through Norway film and delves a little in each of his projects, a commentary track with Kiil, a short film by the director entitled “The Voice of One’s Conscience” (aka “Samvittighetens Rost”), and Artsploitation trailers. Reinert Kiil’s “The House” is non-exuberant horror diverging toward exploring the filmmaker’s unlimited possibilities and with “The House’s” diabolical descent into invigorating terror, Norway cinema has an abundance of sheer promise for the future of horror.
Local geologist Kristian, of the small lake side town of Geiranger, and his family pack for their start of a new life in the big city where Kristian has offered a new job. But when seemingly insignificant activity in the Åkerneset mountain that surrounds the nestled Geiranger displays on first alert’s monitors, Kristian fears that his beloved town will be washed away by the possibility of an 80ft tsunami created by a mountain landslide. Unable to leave town, Kristian stays one more night; a night in which a landslide occurs, creating a massive Tsunami heading straight for the heart of Geiranger and Kristian only has 10 minutes before impact to alert the town and escape with his family.
Norwegian’s 2015 natural disaster-thriller “The Wave” aka “Bølgen” is a landslide victory for director Roar Uthaug. “The Wave” funnels disaster into a single locality where as Hollywood tends to doll up and glossy disasters films, Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” Steve Quate’s “Into the Storm,” Brad Petyon’s 2015 “San Andreas” starring Dwayne Johnson just to name a few, that hyper peril the catastrophes into a global event. The focus becomes too spread out and the parlous state is diluted amongst the characters if the catastrophe is affecting everyone in the world. To pinpoint an area or a region isolates the drama and the thrills resulting in more of an impact upon the characters. On a global scale, characters can escape with ease because the space is vast and non-constricting, but in Geiranger (which is also a real place with the same very real threat), a fortress of mountains loom over the town, higher elevation is safe haven, and the possibility of escape is not so easily achievable.
Academy Award winning The Revenant star Kristoffer Joner plays the heroic lead in Kristian who fights and claws his way through disaster and destruction. Joner isn’t bulky like Dwayne Johnson, but has a more down to earth appeal that’s more appreciated than Hollywood’s grander is better ideal. But like the “San Andreas” conquerer, Kristian is a family man trying to save his wife and two children. Joner’s Kristian reminisces a much older disaster film involving a small town with a Mount St. Helens explosion. “The Wave” story has Kristian with inklings of forthcoming disaster and his fears are put aside in the interest of tourism. The 1997 Roger Donaldson film “Dante’s Peak” compares very similar with Pierce Bronson’s Harry Dolton has the same concerns, but the town leadership ignores the facts and only has dollar signs on the mind. When disaster strikes, both Kristian and Harry stay behind to save whomever they can.
The cast rounds out with a enormously talented cast in “Dead Snow’s” Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, and Fridtjov Såheim. Their working dynamics are accomplished by their individual challenges due in part of the threatening tsunami wave and the second half of obstacles that comes post-event to where Kristian and his wife Idun must now stay alive to find each other through a girth of destruction from high elevation to sea level. The script is penned by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and I praise their storytelling in creating worthy characters and developing the plausible cataclysm on paper.
The special effects rival the big boisterous effects of Hollywood. The menacing tsunami means business on screen was created under the supervision of Pål Morten Hverven and splayed on the natural blue hue heavy and tone setting cinematography of John Christian Rosenlund. Usually, giant waves in Hollywood just can’t cut that CGI feel. Uthaug’s wave crests with such realism it’s frightening and to experience our characters at the moment of impact makes you never want to go in the water again – forget about giant man-eating sharks, its giant killer waves you have to worry about. Uthaug puts the viewer right in the path of an immense wave, capturing all the fear and intensity and the breathtaking aspects of simulating a dire situation.
Magnolia Entertainment releases the Norwegian disaster flick in Theaters and On Demand. Magnolia courtesy sent me a screener link so I am unable to comment on the video and audio quality. Also, there were no extras included in the screener as it’s solely a feature. “The Wave” washes over Hollywood’s big budgeted calamity films that’s been released over the past decade and will have you holding your breath from start to finish and long after the wave has subsided.
Nazi horror, aka Nazisploitation, is my bread and butter. With the fascination I have with Nazi culture and my love for horror, every Nazi horror movie is a win-win in my book.
Today, a new poster was revealed for “Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead” and it’s freakin’ awesome (and maybe a little offense to certain Christian going groups). This poster most likely won’t make it into movie theater marquees or hallways, but lets face it the movie itself will most likely not make the big screen. However, the sequel is due in Theaters October 10 helmed by “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” director Tommy Wirkola and returns Norwegian actor Vegar Hoel.
They’re not just zombies. They’re Nazi zombies.
And there’s a lot of them. On the orders of a rotten Führer, the zombies from Dead Snow return to settle old German scores. In the continuation of the epic splatterfest from 2009, Martin, the sole survivor of the first movie, prove that there’s more badass shit in Northern Norway than even Nazi zombies would be prepared for. The table is set for a massive revenge epic, where blood, guts, brains and throats are not the only things dredged up from the darkness. Old hatred never rots.