Swedish Horror Films
Swedish films are often known for combining deliberate pacing with imagery of barren landscapes, and the same holds true for many Swedish horror films. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and several of the films listed below feature styles more in keeping with their Hollywood counterparts.
If you’re a fan of Ingmar Bergman or the recent Millennium Trilogy, I suggest that you give a few of these horror movies from Sweden a try. While most wouldn’t be considered high art, they do manage to provide enough kills and thrills to keep viewers entertained.
- Let the Right One In (2008) - A modern masterpiece, and the best example of Swedish horror films currently available. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindquist (which is even more disturbing), the film centers around Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a bullied 12-year-old who becomes fast friends with his new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson). But although Eli appears to be a girl about Oskar’s age, she’s actually an ancient vampire with a constant thirst for blood and a desire to replace her aging helper (who poses as her father). The murder scenes are quick and brutal, but it’s the touching and disturbing relationship between the main characters that really sells the film. Surprisingly, the American remake (Let Me In) is just as good.
- Frostbitten (2006) - Combining horror with plenty of grim comedy, Frostbitten is a little-known Swedish horror film that deserves a look from any real fan of the genre. Petra Nielsen is Annika, a doctor who gets the opportunity to work with her professional idol in a small Swedish community. But it turns out that her new mentor is a former member of the SS, and his research results in an accidental outbreak of a virus that manifests in much the same way as vampirism. There are plenty of undead teens, talking dogs, and all manner of other strangeness along the way. If you want a vampire movie that’s totally different, then by all means give Frostbitten a try.
- The Doll (1962) - Per Oscarsson stars as Lundgren, a lonely night watchman who develops an unusual fondness for a department store mannequin. As their imaginary relationship deepens, he steals the mannequin and takes her back to his home. Imagine his surprise when she suddenly comes to life. That’s when things get really dark, and anyone expecting Mannequin with Kim Cattrall will be sorely disappointed (and probably scared out of their wits).
- The Cellar (2003) - This is a student film, so don’t expect any big-name actors or production values. Then again, films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity managed to scare without a big budget, so that’s not always a requirement. The plot centers around four art students who rent an isolated house to work on their individual projects. But strange visions begin to occur, and the group must figure out if the house is haunted or if they’re just losing their minds. As the title would imply, the home’s creepy cellar plays a large part in the narrative.
- Not Like Others (2008) - Another vampire movie from Sweden, Not Like Others stars Jenny Lampa and Ruth Vega Fernandez as a pair of vampire sisters who are hunted by a gang of bikers after one of them kills their leader in a nightclub. But this pursuit is just part of the fun, as one of the sisters desires to turn her back on the vampire lifestyle and live among humanity. Refusing to be abandoned, the other undead beauty is willing to do anything to keep her companion close. There are no fangs in this one (they use a knife to get their dinner), and the climactic showdown in a movie theatre is worth the price of a rental.
- Hour of the Wolf (1968) - Most Swedish horror films are made by directors you’re probably unfamiliar with, but this work was helmed by none other than Ingmar Bergman. Liv Ullman stars as Alma, a young woman who sits calmly at a picnic table and discusses the disappearance of her husband (Max von Sydow), a painter with insomnia. A series of flashbacks reveal what happened to him, as well as introducing a number of bizarre characters with names such as the Schoolmaster, Bird-Man, and the Meat-Eaters. A dreamy quality pervades the production, and the ending will have wondering if everyone in Sweden is just out of their minds.
- The Visitors (1988) - When a family moves to a home in the country, they’re soon plagued by mysterious sounds and events. A ghost expert is called in, but he winds up dead, forcing the head of the family to investigate himself. The reactions to the haunting are handled with a great deal of realism, and the film abandons gore in favor of shadow and suspense. An above-average ghost story that doesn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer, and just wait until you see what’s lurking in the attic.
- Drowning Ghost (2004) - A century before, three students at the prestigious Hellestads Boarding School were murdered, and the farmer responsible for their deaths promptly drowned himself in a nearby lake. His body was never found, and legend says that he returns once a year on the anniversary of the murders. The students, being a predictably stupid lot, hold a party each year at the barn where the farmer used to live. When a student named Sara (Rebecka Hemse) begins to investigate what really happened a century prior, a killer arrives on the scene and starts dispatching her classmates in a most graphic fashion. While not the most original film, it does include some decent tension, good-looking performers, and a respectable number of kills.
- The Phantom Carriage (1921) - A classic film from the silent era, The Phantom Carriage takes place on New Year’s Eve as three winos sit around drinking and swapping tales. Then the discussion turns to a darker legend, one which states that the last person to die in a given year will be forced to spend the next 365 days driving an unearthly carriage that picks up the souls of the dead. As you might have guessed, one of the drunks happens to die soon thereafter, and we get to see the horrifying legend come to life.
- Insane (2010) - Set at a creepy hotel, Insane will remind you of Psycho right from the beginning. While it’s nowhere as good as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, it still provides a number of murders, lots of hot girls, and a creepy hotel manager who enjoys working with miniature dolls. Lars Bethke steals the show as David, the Norman Bates wanna-be, and those who enjoy PVC and gas masks will get a kick out of the killer’s appearance.
When you’re ready to give Swedish horror films a try, see if you can find a local retailer before you run off to Amazon. For example, Texas residents can find scary films from around the world at Eerie Books, the only bookstore in the Lone Star State dedicated exclusively to horror.