JUNE 18, 2010
Last night, via Twitter, I begged for a good slasher movie to watch for today, as I hadn’t really liked much this week, and I’m much easier to please with a slasher film than any other sub-genre. But the suggestions I got were not applicable or available to get in time, so I settled for Hidden (aka Skjult), which is one of the few After Dark 4 films I hadn’t seen yet and the only one I haven’t heard horrible things about. But I also thought it was a ghost movie, and yet... it’s sort of a slasher movie! And a good one! The system works.
Now I say “sort of” because I must admit I’m not sure I fully grasped everything that happened in the movie (SPOILERS AHEAD!). Either it’s up to interpretation, or I’m just a bit dumb, as I’m not sure if there was a 2nd person killing folks or if it was just a Fight Club-esque manifestation of the real killer (who would be our main character). There seems to be equal evidence of both, but the great thing is that I’m satisfied with either answer, because neither is “He was dead the whole time”, which is what I thought it was, due to Blockbuster’s “If you like this then you’ll like these” suggestions of Carnival of Souls, Jacob’s Ladder, and Sixth Sense when I added the film to my queue. I mean, those are pretty much the definitive “Dead the whole time” movies, and even one as a suggestion would trigger that theory in my head. So, well played, Blockbuster, you had me watching the movie under the wrong theory (which may be why I had trouble deciphering the actual answer, though a quick check on the IMDb board suggests it’s pretty much a 50/50 split for viewers over whether or not the killer was real or imagined).
Part of why I dug the movie is that it started out like a generic haunted house movie, with a guy inheriting a big isolated house from an estranged relative. I’ve seen enough of those, and was about to sigh in defeat when things started happening that didn’t jive with that type of movie. For example, he doesn’t stay in it. Instead, he goes to a strange hotel nearby, where the walls are all decorated with backlit photos of trees and waterfalls, which offers some incredibly striking production design. And the concierge is a cute Swedish girl who speaks cryptically, giving the thing a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe as well. And then when two teens sneak into the presumably abandoned house and get stalked by a creepy red-coat wearing slasher... let’s say I was no longer feeling so “seen it!”, as it was successfully blending elements of different sub-genres to create something unique (and tragic, ultimately).
Speaking of the production design, it’s a terrific house. Half rotted, things leaking, a room with nothing but a pile of creepy little mummy dolls... if this was an American movie, it would be turned into the next haunted house for Knott’s or Universal’s Halloween attraction season. Added to the hotel, you have one of the most visually interesting titles in After Dark history, especially compared to the rest of this year’s lineup, largely confined to generic locales like desert towns (The Graves) and lakeside cabins (Kill Theory).
Some stuff just seems to be weird for the sake of weird though, such as the female officer character. She wears an unexplained cast on her arm, alludes to being part of the main guy’s past, etc. Again, as I was originally under the “he’s dead” impression, I kept thinking she was possibly some sort of guide that would lead him to his ultimate destination in the afterlife, which would explain her quirks (and seeming ability to pop up just in time whenever he was in trouble), but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that she’s anything but who/what she says she is, making her little oddities all the more puzzling.
Regardless, it’s one of the best of this year’s ADF titles, and certainly the best foreign language one they’ve had so far, though I really should give Abandoned and Reincarnation another look, as I saw both under less than desirable circumstances (shitty theater/with a friend who wouldn’t shut up, respectively). And it’s another win for Norway (Cold Prey, Dead Snow), further cementing their status as a contender to replace Italy as the go-to place for (new) imported horror, since Italy barely makes any anymore. And we can’t give anything to the French.
What say you?