Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frostbitten (2006)

The last good vampire film I saw was Let the Right One In, but before that I can’t remember the last good vampire film I saw. I love the mythos behind vampires, but I hate how Hollywood usually translates them as being suave, sophisticated beings that sip blood from crystal goblets and lounge about sumptuously appointed mansions. I miss vampires being vicious, cunning and bloodthirsty!

Yet, even when vampires are envisioned as completely feral beings, things can still go wrong…just see 30 Days of Night, which had a killer concept but failed devastatingly to deliver. Luckily, the Swedish film Frostbitten (or Frostbiten in its native tongue) is a fun vampire film that melds the old vampire mythos (an aversion to garlic and crosses, not being able to see their reflection and not being able to control their blood lust) with the new (a genetically engineered vampire that is superior to both “old” vampires and humans, red pills that turn users into vampires), creating a fresh and entertaining vampire film.

Saga (Grete Havnesköld) and her mother Annika (Petra Nielsen) have moved to a small Lapland town so Annika can work alongside the famous geneticist Gerhard Beckert (Carl-Åke Eriksson) at a medical facility. They’ve arrived at the time of year in winter when the town has 30 days of night, and both must adjust to the continuous darkness as well as being in a new place. Also, when they arrive there are a series of odd deaths that occur. Some seem like accidents, but the victims have puncture marks on their necks.

Meanwhile, Saga makes a quirky new friend at school named Vega (Emma T. Åberg) while Annika becomes intrigued by Professor Beckert and his only patient, a young coma victim whom he treats with mysterious red pills. A young resident, Sebastian (Jonas Karlström), who also goes to Saga’s school, steals a red pill from the Professor, mistaking it for a street drug. When he takes it he get violently ill but has a strong desire for more red pills…so he breaks into the medical facility and nixes a whole box full of the pills from the Professor.

Vega manages to get her hands on the pills after Sebastian fails to score any drugs for an upcoming party. The pills end up at the party where all the teenagers of the town are boozing it up and partying like rock stars. Saga ends up there too, and pretty soon after popping the red pills the teens are transforming into bloodthirsty vamps.

Back at the medical facility Annika has discovered Professor Beckert’s secret after being bit by his patient…

With 30 days of night ahead of them, can mother and daughter unite to stop the vampires before it’s too late?

That synopsis may seem a bit long and convoluted, but luckily the movie doesn’t come off that way. Though the film has wide assortment of characters, it takes the time to develop them just enough so we know who everyone is. The characters are all likable and the film is infused with a contagiously fun energy. There is plenty of humor throughout the film, but also plenty of grue to satisfy! Its films like Frostbitten that really renew my love of the horror genre and prove there still are hidden gems out there!

The script and the pacing of the film are both near perfection. Though the beginning starts a bit slow with not too much blood loss, you are still sucked into the storyline by the characters and their different situations. Writers Daniel Ojanlatva and Pidde Andersson, along with director Anders Banke have created a fluid narrative that encompasses many different points of view from different characters. They also made sure there are laughs a-plenty, from a funny and awkward first meeting between a boyfriend and his girlfriend’s parents as he’s turning into a vampire (the father is a priest wearing a cross and the mother has made some garlic-encrusted fish dish) to the witty banter between teenagers (though perhaps a little dated by American standards). I also loved the backstory that opens the film, complete with Nazi soldiers being picked off by a vampire.

Surprisingly, the 30 days of night theme isn’t really touched on except for a line uttered towards the end of the film, but the night is ever-present and neither the audience nor the characters get any relief from the darkness. The night is used wisely by the director and cinematographer (Chris Maris) in creating a foreboding atmosphere. We are never quite sure what is hiding in the blackness beyond the street lamps, and that tension keeps us on the edge of our seats for the entire film.

The special FX used in Frostbitten are pretty impressive, especially when the red blood is contrasted against the white snow. It’s just bloody gore-geous! The Professor’s “transformation” at the end was also impressive and cool-looking! Usually CGI annoys me, but here it is done right and I barely even noticed it! I also enjoyed Sebastian’s gradual change and the vampire’s blood-red eyes! There were also buckets of blood used towards the end of the film, even one scene where an entire interior of a house is coated in the red stuff! Also, I have to note that death-by-lawn-gnome was one of the most inventive ways to kill a vampire I have ever seen!

With Frostbitten, Sweden has released one of the best modern vampire movies I’ve had the pleasure to see. Filled with witty repertoire, funny characters and buckets of blood, Frostbitten comes highly recommended from yours truly!

Available from Amazon!

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