Friday, September 18, 2009

Anders Banke's Frostbitten (2006)

If you were to take a random poll today amongst your friends and ask: "have you seen a movie from Sweden about vampires?" Chances are a few might say yes, some would say something like "that sounds familiar," and a couple might say, "huh?" Now, if you were to ask your geeky film friends, like myself, the overwhelming response would be an enthusiastic "yes." Better not to ask your horror friends though, because the question would just be insulting. Almost one hundred percent of the speculatively polled would believe the film in question is indie hit Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In (2008). Kudos to the few who knew that Sweden had made one released a couple of years before (hell, I don't know, there could be a bunch more) entitled Frostbitten (2006), directed by Anders Banke. Be prepared also for everyone polled to punch you in the face for being a smarty-pants and revealing that fact to their face.
Frostbitten begins with a flashback of Scandinavian soldiers fighting for the Germans in the Ukraine during World War II. After a particularly difficult firefight, the small band of soldiers seek shelter and inevitably get lost in the snow. The band comes upon a secluded and snowed-in cabin, where the group of soldiers gets temporary comfort and a permanent resting place for a few...
Cut to modern day where cute Saga and her recently-divorced mother, Annika, are headed to the north of the country which is beginning its polar night (thirty days without sun). Annika begins work for Professor Gerhard Beckert at a local hospital in genetics research. The good professor has one patient, comatose, who takes a daily dose of a shiny, blood-red pill. Meanwhile, under the blanket of darkness, Saga starts school, where she meets vampish Vega, who is immediately smitten with young Saga. Vega invites Saga to a big party happening this weekend. Despite one of their friends mysteriously and recently dying, the party should be a blast. Vega is in charge of scoring the dope and she has a connection in the hospital: young medical student, Sebastian, who inadvertently spies the professor's patient and scores one of her blood-red pills. Sebastian takes the pill with some seriously ill effects: his senses are heightened, he cannot keep in anything down in his stomach, and dogs are talking to him (and making a lot of sense). Sebastian loots the professor's cache of blood-red pills for further study, but Vega nicks the lot of them for the party, since absent-minded Sebastian probably wouldn't mind. Saga's off to the party, while Annika has a confrontation with the professor's patient, which ends with Annika getting a bite on her arm...
Fairly rare in this decade's horror cinema, Frostbitten goes for both the scares and the laughs. Its biggest influences are also some of the genre's biggest successes, such as Tom Holland's Fright Night (1985), Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985), and Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys (1987; which is explicitly referenced in a scene). Frostbitten doesn't succeed on the level of that trio of classics but there is a lot of fun to be had within. Emma Åberg's Vega is the comedic highlight and steals every scene that she's in. Her scenes with Grete Havnesköld's Saga are a lot of ambiguous fun: it's unknown why Vega is making such a fuss over the new girl. Does Vega feel a sisterly kinship with Saga ("deja-vu" are Vega's first words upon seeing Saga) or is Vega doing her best to seduce her? Vega is just very charming and charismatic to watch, as in a particularly entertaining scene where she baits a local policeman during her smoke break. The best comedic bits within Frostbitten come with the talking dogs: as Sebastian is feeling the effects of the drug, he has a couple of encounters with chatty canines. Those scenes are humorous, and in one scene, I actually could imagine a dog saying its particular dialogue, being a dog owner myself. The scares are standard but still fun. Anyone can tell what this film is about from my clever little introduction (hint, hint "the other Swedish vampire film"). Frostbitten uses refreshingly some practical make-up effects combined with rather well-done CGI, creating some semi-exciting monstrous scenes.
Unfortunately, at approximately one hundred minutes, Frostbitten is populated by way too many characters to serve its over-convoluted plot. Jonas Karlström's Sebastian gets way more screen time than is necessary, some characters shouldn't exist at all, and the most intriguing ones, such as Saga, Vega, Annika, and Beckert, suffer from the others' presence. This is not to say that any of the performances are bad, but rather this is not the film for them. Also, Banke shows some great set-ups and no delivery. The atmosphere in Frostbitten really lacks, as the setting of snow during thirty days of night could be brilliant. Also, the scenes with Annika and Beckert within the hospital could also be done better. Virtually no dread or foreboding is created to balance the comedic scenes. The ending is too tidy and inconsistent, and at a couple of points in the film, especially during the big party scenes, Frostbitten feels as if it is just starting only to quickly fade away.
All in all, Frostbitten had enough nostalgia to give it that "Oh, you're so cool, Brewster"-vibe of 80s horror that I love. Unfortunately, the film doesn't have enough magic to make it one to revisit or anything really to make it memorable. Being the first doesn't necessarily make it the best.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

The Lost Boys is the greatest film ever to be released by studios and viewed with human eyes. Amazing. The fact that Frostbitten does not live up to the The Lost Boys is unsurprising, because, as we all know, they're only noodles Michael. And that is large and in charge.