31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 24: The Mare [2020]

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This tiny Norwegian film almost escaped my radar because it was nestled into what I consider to be the movie dumping ground that is Amazon Prime, a site with a terrible user interface, full of bugs, with utterly crap sorting and filters, so you can never bloody find what you want. So luckily this film, with a date of one year ago (20 years in horror-movie-years) – somehow I was able to come across it. And it’s weirdly almost brilliant. But fuck them for making it, because I’m never watching it again.

The Mare (2020) - IMDb
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31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 15: The Trip [I Onde Dager] [2021]

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After both Dead Snows and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I decided that I 100% love Tommy Wirkola and all of the batshit stuff he’s ever going to direct. So when I hear he did a movie with Noomi Fucking Rapace, I considered myself 300% sold.

The Trip (2021) - IMDb
source: imdb

The Trip [I Onde Dager], Netflix’s latest horror drop, is really more of a black comedy/thriller, but with that horror slant of ultraviolent fun that you see in films like Why Don’t You Just Die! and, well, literally every other Wirkola film.

However, it must be said: CW for very, VERY strong and lasting threat of SA.

It’s ultimately played for very, very dark laughs but I wonder if the film could have done without it.

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31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 15: Troll Hunter (2010)

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troll hunter

Yay! Another found footage horror movie, meaning we know that everybody is going to end up dead. Especially as it tells us that the footage was literally found on its own unedited and in chronological order. Never fear though, because Troll Hunter is just as fun as fellow found-footage film Frankenstein’s Army.

troll hunter

This Norwegian sillyfest mixes up Norse mythology (squee when you hear a variation of the word “Jotunheim”), fairytale conventions (we literally see three goats on top of a bridge) and a mockumentary style. We follow three students who happen across some carnage and a dead bear, as well as a gruff old bloke named Hans (Nordic comedian Otto Jespersen in a gleefully deadpan role channelling Indiana Jones), who insists that the bear did nothing. He keeps mum about what he thinks it is that actually did it, so the group tail him into the forest, filming the whole time. After a few minutes, out comes Hans, screaming just the world “TROLL!!!”

troll hunter

And there we go from here. Hans allows the group to tag along and film his trollhunting, provided they do exactly as he tells them, which includes rubbing “concentrated troll stench” all over their skin and clothes like a putrid form of camouflage. There’s not a ton of tension, even when one of the kids gets bitten (though it looks like he’d just slept on a pitchfork), and the trolls themselves are too cartoonish to be feared, like oversized versions of Gollum. What’s worse is that every sequence with the trolls is bathed in a green, sort-of-night-vision filter, which only appears for the duration of when the trolls are on-screen, and it cuts right back to regular lighting even though the other characters haven’t moved.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 03.08.51troll hunter

The mockumentary style adds layers of humour and charm on top of absolutely everybody’s deadpan performances, but it’s a bit surprising that, for a movie that “claims” that the “found footage” was unedited etc., there are hardly any moments of downtime, in which characters could be better explored through inconsequential dialogue (especially as we know they’re going to die soon anyway). The setting is gorgeous (dat scenery), and there are plenty of moments in which the cameraman captures some pretty stunning panoramic views of cliffs and mountains at sunset (not hard, considering he’s flawlessly captured everything else so far)

troll hunter

It feels overlong at times (it’s over 100 minutes), and there are some dry, borderline repetitive moments that had me almost nodding off (too much “oh, here’s a new place to look at now”), but this can be forgiven as the action picks up pretty quickly again. The fact that these characters are inexperienced students filming interviews, chases, etc., flattens the pace a little. Just know that this is a charmingly cheesy film that lifts some of the better style ideas from The Blair Witch Project but puts its own fun, Nordic spin on it. Let’s hope for a sequel from this team rather than the apparent remake from the mitts of Chris Columbus.

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 15: Skjult (2009)

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Almost halfway through my horror-a-thon and I guess I’m getting a bit absent-minded, because I keep forgetting to turn off the light before I go to bed. And despite living in a secured building in a relatively safe, small city, I’m finding myself double-checking that both locks on my front door are properly secured. Speaking of which, I’m immensely glad I don’t live in an eerie but terrifyingly beautiful forest, even if my life could be a bounty for Skjult (“Hidden”)’s cinematographer’s talents.

The film begins with a young boy running through a forest, and almost getting hit by a truck. The truck swerves and avoids him, but plows straight into the car of another boy’s parents, killing them instantly, while the other boy looks on from the side of the road. Flash-forward 19 years later (nice not to have a round number), when the runner, Kai “KK” Koss (Kristoffer Joner) now grown up, confirms the identity and sight of his mother’s fresh corpse. If Joner’s expertly-crafted facial tics didn’t clearly imply that KK had a terrible childhood, his odd behaviour around the body (let’s leave it at that) might make things a bit clearer. Still not sure? How about a nightmarish vision/scare of the old lady?

Back in his hometown to settle any estate-related affairs, KK spends much of the film in a dream-like, near-cathartic state, as he struggles to put behind him the memories of his mother’s abuse (including scalding him when he wet the bed). Joner’s haggard, weary visage constantly looks as though it’s about to shatter at any given moment. The film’s partly-hotel-setting and emphasis on the psychological at times invoke the atmosphere of The Shining, with Joner feeling like he’s giving both Nicholson’s and Duvall’s performances in one go. Cecilie A. Mosli imbues supporting character Sara with an effortless warmth that’s very much appreciated to break up the film’s unsettling tension, and some grounding when the story occasionally shifts gears from unreliable to reliable narratives.

source: onemetal.com

And it’s the former in which the film occasionally indulges. While that’s not uncommon for a psychological horror movie, it can make the movie more of a mindfuck than a scare-fest, and that cinematic handicap is compounded by the choice to scare more with EXTREMELY LOUD MUSICAL CUE-LETS rather than the genuine scares that they accompany.

The story is relatively simple, but it felt like it was deliberately chopped up into a fragmented format that lends itself to plotholes (or potential plotholes). Even the film’s final shot comes off as a bit of a middle finger to the mood and narrative that the past 90 minutes or so had been diligently building up. While the cinematography is indeed, aforementionedly, lush, it jars with the expositions and reveals that are mentioned off-handedly. Though it’s not something you’d watch over and over again (the storytelling techique, while far-fetched, has nothing on the film’s myriad themes of disturbing subject matter),  it’s still a lingering, stylized piece.