Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whoa. That Was Spooky. Seriously.

Just a quick note today.

I went to the mostly regular movie session with the Cool Shite team last night. When it came time for the main event, Bruce suggested something about the Baader-Meinhof group, but I felt it sounded too damned thoughtful and serious. Wasn't up for it. Dion wasn't too fussed about it either, so we turned to plan B -- a pile of what Bruce said were probably silly slasher/horror flicks.

I went through the small pile, reading ratings-tags like "strong violence" "strong horror" "supernatural themes" "extreme violence"... you get the picture. Eventually I came across a Finnish flick called 'Sauna', and noticed that the ratings tag included a bit about 'occasional nudity'.

Well, fair enough, I figured. A Finnish movie called 'Sauna' incorporating occasional nudit would probably at least be entertaining to watch. So it got my vote. And Dion lackadaisically joined in.

First note: the nudity was all male. (Ba-bow! FAIL!).

Second note: holy shit, what an amazing film.

Look, I don't much care for horror flicks. Mostly, I find them manipulative, repetitive, and irritating. The characters rarely interest me, since they're inevitably bland, white-bread 'everyday folks' to maximise the so-called 'horror' of their situation. And the storylines are usually banal. And I don't really respond to most people's idea of horror. The world is a horrific place already. Tossing in bad fantasy about demons or immortal murderers... meh. Doesn't faze me.

But 'Sauna'? Holy fucking sheepshit.

First off, it's a remarkably well-made film. Camerawork: excellent to remarkable. Cinematography: excellent to remarkable. Acting: very good. Writing: very good. Production values: excellent. Soundtrack: restrained, orchestral, excellent. If you got this kind of quality in a typical Hollywood flick, you'd be surprised. Finland isn't widely known for its cinema, so this is a real surprise.

Second: this film is fucking creepy as all hell. There's very little gore and/or violence. It's mostly implied. But the implication is ugly, and nasty, and pervasive. There's an atmosphere about this film from virtually the opening onwards. It feels paranoiac and threatening. There's a constant sense of dread, and the film-makers successfully build it up to end with some of the most skin-crawling footage I've seen outside the best of the Japanese horror films.

Most importantly, the characters, the setting, and the actual story are interesting. It's set in the late 16th century, at the end of a protracted war between Russia and Sweden. Two teams of mappers, one from each country, are establishing the new border between the countries as set down by treaty. The men are tired -- tired of war, tired of travel, tired of suspicious locals, desperately tired of each other. They want nothing more than to finish the job and go home, but first, they have to run the border through the middle of a cold, desolate swamp.

And that's where things really start to go bad.

I'm truly amazed. By pure chance, I've just seen a film that's gone straight into my top five for the year -- and it was a horror flick! Not only that, but it genuinely gave me the creeps: full-on gooseflesh at least four times during the movie. That's a record.

You like horror at all? Do yourself a huge favour: rent or buy 'Sauna'. Hell, even if you simply like really good film-making, 'Sauna' is a treat.

Just... don't see it at night, on your own. And if you do -- well, don't say I didn't warn you.


  1. Bwahahahahaha on the nudity Dirk!! That's what you MEN get for being pervvy!


  2. I'll wait for the Hollywood remake with the cast of Gossip Girl.

  3. Sauna. Noted. I'll throw it on my Quickflix queue.

  4. Yeah Sauna was great, I was lucky to read a review of it over at quiet earth and found it in a the DVD Hire place in the ARTHOUSE section.

    Arthouse really.

    It now sits in the horror section where it belongs.

    You can check out the trailer here http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=sauna

  5. Hey, I just recently heard Eli Roth talking about this flick and how creepy it is. Definitely intrigued.

    I get what your saying in your generalization of the genre. You make good points but I love the goofy shit anyways.

  6. Never been a huge fan of horror in a film, though I don't mind it in novel form.

    That said, the male nudity might get me in.....

  7. Wouldn't get too excited, Mayhem -- it would definitely qualify as 'discreet' and 'story-oriented'.