Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #4: Lake Bodom (Bodom)

Lake Bodom (Bodom)
Don Films, Münchhausen Productions, Finland, Estonia, 2016.
In 1960s four camping youths were attacked and stabbed at Lake Bodom with only one survivor. The culprit was never found. A half century later four teens decide to travel to the lake to solve the mystery. Ida-Maria (Nelly Hirst-Gee) has strictly religious parents and she has a personal trauma. Tough girl Nora (Mimosa Willamo) is her best friend. Elias (Mikael Gabriel) is the cool chick-magnet guy, and Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä) is the geek.
Mimosa Willamo
Nelly Hirst-Gee
Mikael Gabriel and Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä
Elias and Atte
Atte has a theory about the murder and he has gone into details to re-enact the crime scene. Elias has something other in mind than playing detective. The night comes and scary things move in the woods. When real murders begin, can someone get out alive? 
Murderer murders
There are rare teen slashers made in Finland and even less are watchable (*cough* "Nightmare" and "Nightmare 2"). As a genre film "Bodom" fulfills the expectations well, and couple of twists have been written to the story to make it less straightforward.  For seasoned horror veterans the twists are not too surprising, but are there to make things more interesting for casual horror audiences. There is also a thrilling scene of vehicular horror. Atmospheric cinematography and murky ambient sound track help to create the sinister mood. Rapper Mikael Gabriel plays mainly himself, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä's Atte stays a bit enigmatic and the girls make the strongest roles. And no wonder Mimosa Willamo got awards for her role. The film gained some success in international film festivals. Hopefully this encourages other Finnish film makers to experiment with genre films.

Rating: Good

Starring: Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä, Pirjo Moilanen, Ilkka Heiskanen, Sami Eerola, Otso Ahosola, Ville Saksela, Iiris Kankkunen, Tommi Korpela, Jarkko Niemi
Director: Taneli Mustonen

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #3: Army of Zombies (Kuutamosonaatti II: Kadunlakaisijat)

Army of Zombies (Kuutamosonaatti II: Kadunlakaisijat)
Filminor, Finland, 1991.
...And in Germany this is known as "Muttertag 3."

The first film "Kuutamosonaatti" was darkly fun agrarian horror cult film. Sadly the sequel loses the horror momentum and the result is a confusing mess.

Most of the Kyyrölä family died in the first film. Mother froze to death and Arvo burned to crisp. Only animal-like giant Sulo (Mikko Kivinen) remained. Sulo takes the remains of his family to a sauna, because if a good sauna won't help then nothing will. And so Mother (Soli Labbart) and pervy brother Arvo (Kari Sorvali) revive. Arvo is more slack-jawed than before (his jawbone falls several times), but that will heal over time. They can also revive Father Kyyrölä (Erkki Pajala) who drowned into swamp when he was smuggling moonshine. 
Mikko Kivinen
Kari Sorvali
It is time for Arvo to go find a job in Helsinki. Nosy social workers come to the farm so the Kyyrölä's sink them into swamp. There is some recession era satire when Arvo tries several jobs. In Helsinki Arvo gets a job entertaining Russian tourists. A better job opens up as driver of street sweeping machine (therefore justifying the Finnish name of the movie: "Street Sweepers." Finally he starts living by selling moonshine. Beautiful singer Kata Kärkkäinen (former Playboy-model and nowadays writer, artist and media-persona) catches Arvo's eye this time, but compared to the first film the threat is mild. 
Arvo's bachelor pad
Kata Kärkkäinen
Mother Kyyrölä gets worried that Arvo is living a sinful life in the city. So Mother and Sulo have to find Arvo and put him under control As a funny detail everyone in Helsinki seems to originate from Kyyrölä-village (satirizing the movement of country people to the cities). On the way to find Arvo, the Kyyrölä's meet yuppies, inept cops and social workers who all look like Finnish actor Matti Pellonpää. So far so good. Even as the horror aspect was lost, there could have been some funny contrast to the first film when the hellbillies moved into big city.
Matti Tuominen
Matti Tuominen as the leader of Red Guard zombies
Matti Pellonpää as social worker
But the focus shifts and it is difficult to say what the makers had in mind. Father Kyyrölä revives a squad of Red Guard soldiers who were executed during the Civil War. With their leader Edward Allan Kilpinen (Matti Tuominen) the zombie communists travel to Helsinki to continue the revolution. Bumbling around, they meet various people including the Minister of Culture (Miitta Sorvali, who is Kari Sorvali's comedian wife).
Minister of Culture (Miitta Sorvali)
And so on. Kyyrölä brothers sell hazardous moonshine, and cause a ruckus in Miss Helsinki contest (hosted by era's popular game show host Jorma Pulkkinen), chase Kata in amusement park Linnanmäki and escape cops. But the film is basically plotless and the story goes nowhere. Arvo still has some funny one-liners but everything is watered down. It is still recommended to watch once to see the further adventures of the Kyyröläs. However the experience is quite painful.
Jorma Pulkkinen
Finnish Ramopunk band 'Ne Luumäet' made a song inspired by the film with the chorus: "'You shouldn't stare too much at the street sweeper. He comes and kills. And when he kills, then you die.'

Rating: Bad

Starring: Soli Labbart, Kari Sorvali, Mikko Kivinen, Erkki Pajala, Keijo Komppa, Matti Tuominen, Ilkka Koivula, Esa Anttila, Seppo Juusonen, Jussi Tuominen, Katariina Souri, Mikko Nousiainen, Vesa Vierikko, Leena Rapola, Veli Tuomas-Kettunen, Olavi Tervahartiala, Veikko Tiitinen, Jouko Klemettilä, Matti Pellonpää, Juha Häkkänen, Toivo Tuomainen, Martti Kuisma, Anne Nielsen, Aulis Hämäläinen, Pentti Louko, Tauno Karvonen, Miitta Sorvali, Ulla Tapaninen, Jari Järvimaa, Jorma Pulkkinen, Sari Havas, Risto Aaltonen, Harri Hyttinen, Lina Ignatova, Pirjo Kotimäki, Sonja Lindén, Marjo Louhe, Pia Nolvi, Anne Pakkanen, Albena Petrova, Ranja Rannikko, Anne Styrman, Satu Tuuliluoto, Minna Aaltonen
Director: Olli Soinio

Monday, October 9, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #2: The Moonlight Sonata (Kuutamosonaatti)

The Moonlight Sonata (Kuutamosonaatti)
Filminor, Finland, 1988.
Horror was for a long time a rare genre in Finland. In the 1980s tough film censorship comparable to British Video Nasty laws made sure that seeing many classics of genre films was only possible via smuggled bootleg video tapes. The Finnish horror films were countable on one hand's fingers. In 1988 director Olli Soinio made a cult hillbilly horror film in the vein of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" being a rare example of Finnish horror of that era.

Disturbed Family Kyyrölä lives on the countryside. Puritanic Mother (Soli Labbart) and her son Arvo (Kari Sorvali) keep Arvo's animal-like brother Sulo (Mikko Kivinen) locked in the basement. During the full moon the boys get insane. One night Sulo escapes and joins a gang of wolves.
Soli Labbart
Kari Sorvali
Mikko Kivinen
Fashion model Anni Stark (Tiina Björkman) has run into some kind of scandal and gets enough of publicity. Manager Carli (Ville-Veikko Salminen) thinks that maybe vacation on the countryside would be cool her nerves. Motel manager (Risto Salmi) is hesitant to take visitors. But he arranges a desolate skiing cabin for Anni and her dog Ebba. In no time perverted Arvo starts to stalk her even stealing her panties.
Tiina Björkman
Ville-Veikko Salminen
Kim Gunell
Annis's little brother Johannes (Kim Gunell) comes to see Anni. For Arvo tractor is like a chainsaw for Leatherface, so the maniac chases them in the forest. The local people look only barely more normal than the folks from "Deliverance" and they do nothing to help. Getting away alive from the degenerate village is harder than it seems. 
Tractor from hell
Local hunks
There is no question that the film will mean more to the Finnish audience (it was never meant for international publication). For me it has always been a proof that we can do genre savvy horror in Finland too. Arvo's demented one-liners have become cult favourite's. "Let's do mittens out of the cat" says Arvo when he looks at Anni's dog.

Stylish wintery cinematography and Antti Hytti's creepy soundtrack create an unnerving mood. The dialogue is scarce and for the most part it is monologue of Arvo. Likewise the bodycount is very low for a horror film. Even so the Kyyrölä Brothers are enjoyably demented horror villains. One weird nostalgic event is the cameo of Toivo Tuomainen as a shopkeeper. Toivo was known from electronic store 'Musta Pörssi' commercials as bustling salesman Topi, but here even he looks creepy.
Toivo Tuomainen
Tiina Björkman in the main role is pretty, but mostly her acting here consists of looking worried and running away. Still in the second half she learns to fight back. Too bad her movie career was short, she had roles only in six movies, and she pursued a different career. Other actors Ville-Veikko Salminen, Mikko Kivinen, Kari Sorvali, Risto Salmi and Soli Labbart have all had a long career in Finnish movies, theater and TV-series. For some reason the movie is known in Germany as "Muttertag 2 - Die Söhne sind zurück" (with no connection whatsoever to Troma's "Mother's Day."). There is also a sequel that goes more to the direction of horror comedy.

Rating: Very good

Starring: Tiina Björkman, Kim Gunell, Ville-Veikko Salminen, Kari Sorvali, Mikko Kivinen, Soli Labbart, Risto Salmi, Toivo Tuomainen, Esa Anttila, Masaaki Hashimoto, Juuso Ruohomäki, Arthur Fuhrmann, Kai Honkanen, Matti Kuortti, Rolf Labbart, Jouko Lumme
Director: Olli Soinio

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