Dead Snow (2009)

Dead SnowFirst off, here’s a drinking game: Take a great shot of karsk for each time Norway/Norwegian is mentioned in this review. Now – Just like Cold Prey, we have Dead Snow, which was also a big deal upon its release back in 2009. Because of this one, we now had our first Norwegian zombie movie to finally show off, with Nazis even. And a lot of red, blood-soaked snow while the Easter sun is shining bright. Another note for the Norwegian film history books. Dead Snow became a hit at the Sundance festival that kick-started the fruitful career of Tommy Wirkola, who’s since made several films in Hollywood – most notably the Christmas action/horror flick Violent Night (2022) with John Harbour in the main role.


Dead Snow opens appropriately enough with Edward Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, as someone is getting chased in the mountain forest and killed by a group of, yes you guessed it, zombies. Zombies in Norway, you say? Huh, that was new. Thought they only had trolls, gnomes and brunost. Yes, but these aren’t Norwegian zombies, you see, so get ready for an upcoming history lesson. After this short and quick adrenaline-filled opening, we meet our group of body-counts/friends of four medical students who are on their way to a mountain cabin in Øksfjord, far up in the northern countryside to celebrate Easter, get drunk on beer and moonshine, party hard and the luckiest ones gets to fuck in the shithouse.


The party mode gets put on hold for a minute when our group of friends gets an unexpected visit from a hiker. And this guy has seen some dark shit, for sure, his face can tell. He gives them a history lesson of the notorious Nazi colonel Herzog, who with his death squad team occupied the area during WW2. They did gruesome things to the locals over a span of three years, and as our hiker says in his beautiful northern dialect:

Det hær va nånn onde SATANS jævla! Wich is best translated as: They were some EVIL motherfuckers!


To cut his story short: Herzog and co. stole a dose of valuables when the war was over and tried to escape over the mountains where they seemed to disappear. Legend says that they froze to death and there’s an evil lurking over the place that must not be awakened. Yeah, whatever. They only scoff at him and don’t think much of it afterward, because who in the right mind would. So, who wants another beer? It isn’t until they find some hidden old valuables and gold in the cabin crawlspace that the plot starts to thicken. Because, guess who also wants to claim that gold, other than the Leprechaun.


Nazi zombies aren’t something new, nor was it with Dead Snow. We can actually rewind all the way back to the 1940s and dig up the corpses of King of the Zombies and Revenge of the Zombies and the terrible cult-schlock from 1981 that is Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, and more. But, of course, in a cold, winter-filled Norwegian setting, this was something we never thought we’d see on a big screen. Especially considering that a film like this would have been completely banned in a gnome country like this, or at least cut to pieces to the unrecognizable if it was made in the VHS era.


The effects are nice and juicy and the film goes full-out with the carnage and what they had in the gore-department. Eyes get poked out in Fulci-style, heads ripped in half, bodies ripped to shreds, people hanging from someone’s fresh ripped-out intestines from a cliff as they fight zombies, some general hack and slashing and its list of references. And of course, we have some glorious chainsaw action. Approx 400 liters of fake blood was used here. Not too shabby for being the first Norwegian zombie movie.


It’s all done with a dose of humor with a great group of actors in some very likable roles. My favorite is Bjørn Sundquist, one of the finest legacy actors we have in Norway. His screentime is short but none other than him would be able to tell the backstory of Herzog in such a serious deadpan manner like he did. However, some of the humor may not land as much on the non-Norwegian audience, especially the classic scene towards the end with the tunes and lyrics of Åge Alexandersen’s Min Dag.


It also shows that this is an early film of a newcomer. It’s of course a big step forward after Wirkola’s debut with Kill Buljo in technical terms. The pacing keeps a steady track, it’s overall fun and entertaining with a lot of energy and some great use of nature scenery. But still, there are some rough edges here. Some choppy and clunky editing choices prevent some of the death scenes to shine and breathe, and the ending gives the impression that the budget just said stop. If Tommy Wirkola already had the sequel in mind, I don’t know, but Dead Snow 2, which came five years later, surely makes this more of a warm-up, or a vorspiel, as we usually say in Norway before the big party. Så det e bare for dåkk kjære hæstkuka å håll sprit’n klar.


Dead Snow Dead Snow Dead Snow


Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen
Original title: Død Snø
Country & year: Norway, 2009
Actors: Geir Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, Bjørn Sundquist, Ørjan Gamst



Tom Ghoul













Cold Prey (2006)

Triangle Herre hær kjæm te å gjør littegrainnj vondt. E du klar? Æ tælle te tre.


And no, it wasn’t my keyboard that just had a stroke. It’s the Norwegian for This will hurt a little. Are you ready? I’m counting to three. Also in the dialect of trøndersk, just to mention.


The year was 2006, on Friday the 13th of October when we got our very first Norwegian slasher, titled Fritt Vilt (with the international title Cold Prey). Yay! So this wasn’t just any slasher you see, it was a cultural event that would have its new chapter in Norwegian film history. Yes I know, it’s quite strange that the country that had the biggest export of black metal, church burnings and Satan didn’t have any horror films to showcase until after the millennium. What held us back while the wave of New French Extremity was already near its peak, is a good question.


We, of course, had Villmark (Dark Woods) from 2003, which leans more into the thriller section, and from there on we have to rewind way, waaaay back to the year 1958 (!) with De Dødes Tjern (Lake of the Dead), which has not aged particularly well. What was left was decades of a pretty stiff, wooden and a ridiculously conservative film industry which had not much to offer other than sloggish, forgettable and painfully dry obscure drama films made for god knows who. Yawn. There were some very few exceptions much thanks to Ivo Caprino (RIP). So aside from that, a film like Cold Prey was a big fresh air in my tiny gnome country. A game changer and a complete shift on how films in Norway would be made from here on, which also included other genres.


With the success and the cultural impact of Cold Prey, it also opened the door to several young genre filmmakers to show their muscles, most notably Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) and André Øvredal (Troll Hunter). Roar Uthaug, along with the two mentioned, would also eventually work in Hollywood with various outcomes. But it’s also valid to say that we have our fair share of terrible, shitty horror movies and the last ten years hasn’t been much to be excited about. So I’m not being a blind patriot waving my flag here. There’s also several Norwegian horror movies that seem to be impossible to find anywhere due to lack of release and distribution, so for all I know there could be a hidden gem somewhere. The only titles I’ve seen which are worth watching from recently are Project Z and The Innocents, both from 2021. And soon Norway will give birth to its first sea monster flick called Kraken, which will start filming in the Norwegian coast later this year. So we’ll see how that one turns out.


Cold Prey follows a group of youngsters who are going snowboarding in the mountains of Jotunheimen. The sky is blue, the air is crisp with even some sprinkles of love, and life is good… until one of the poor bastards fall and breaks his ankle. Luckily, they find an abandoned hotel nearby where they take shelter. And nothing bad happens here. After spending the night, they get met by a rescue team and The End. I’m joking, of course. You know that they’re in deep shit when one of the in-love couple checks into one of the rooms that have the numbers 2 3 7. Redrum!


It’s not the biggest surprise that they’re not alone in the hotel. How boring would that be. We already learn in the opening sequence that the place has a dark history where a kid once disappeared under some questionable circumstances. Our group of friends also learn that a mysterious person called the Mountain Man lives like a hermit somewhere in the dark corners of the hotel, and kills anyone who has the nerve to trespass.


If the premise sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. On paper, Cold Prey is as formulaic as it can be, which basically follows the same footsteps of the most generic slasher films you’ve seen hundreds of already. There’s nothing much new on the surface here, nor was it back in 2006, and the film’s biggest sin is that it’s pretty tame with lackluster kills. The brutality from the early films of Alexandre Aja and other extreme Frenchmen are worlds apart, just to make that clear. Us slow Norwegians still have a lot to learn in the splatter and gore department, unfortunately.


And I almost forgot to mention that there’s no cringe sex scene here, so kudos for at least breaking that cliché.


That being said, there’s more to enjoy here. The setting itself gives the movie an eerie, grim vibe and the acting is solid. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal stands out as the heroine who can also handle a shotgun. The story is intriguing enough with a pacing that keeps the entertaining value on track. The film also looks fabulous, where the bleak coldness really spices up the claustrophobic tension and atmosphere. Cold Prey was filmed at Leirvassbu, a tourist cabin in Jotunheimen where the actors lived during the filming. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the isolated and stone-cold surroundings messed a little with their heads.


So overall, despite not being more ballsy with the violence, Cold Prey is an entertaining watch with some unique scenery, great suspense and a fine addition to winter horror. Still, I must be honest enough to say that it would work more as a horror film for beginners. This is also the directorial debut of Roar Uthaug, who in 2018 made Tomb Raider. If you want more of the primitive Norwegian landscape, check out Escape (2012), also directed by Uthaug.


The film got two sequels: Cold Prey II, which is more of a Halloween II (1981) ripoff, and I don’t remember much of Cold Prey III other than it was a prequel. The first two is on DVD from Anchor Bay and Shout Factory. Kos dåkk!


Cold Prey


Director: Roar Uthaug
Writers: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug
Original title: Fritt Vilt
Country & year: Norway, 2006
Actors: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Viktoria Winge, Rune Melby, Erik Skjeggedal, Tonie Lunde, Hallvard Holmen



Tom Ghoul













Cold Ground (2017)

Cold GroundThe year is 1976, and two young journalists named Melissa and David are in search of their very first big story which will lead to fame and notoriety. They decide to investigate a strange case of cattle mutilations which have happened on the French-Swiss border. With their newly acquired camera they decide to film the entire investigation, from start to finish, where they plan to do interviews with the local residents in the area. Both are excited like a fresh TikTok’er who believes their video will lead to an instant success, and they dive head-in and already start planning to present the full story to a television channel which will get the ball rolling into the inevitable road of success and fortune. No feet planted firmly on the ground here, that’s for sure. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and it already goes a bit sideways when they are supposed to meet a scientific team which has inexplicably just gone – poof – missing. They do not give up however, oh no, this is just a little bump on their golden road, so they enlist the help of an expert in first-aid, and American Forensic Investigator and a British Biologist which will escort them into the depth of the mountains in search of the missing scientists.


Cold Ground is a French found-footage horror movie from 2017, written and directed by Fabien Delage who also directed the 2016 mockumentary film Fury of the Demon. As far as found footage movies go, this one is certainly not breaking and new grounds as the story and setup threads very familiar roads: it’s your typical story of people lost in unknown territory, slowly finding out that something is wrong and then doing a lot of screaming and running with shaky cameras. Yup, seen all of that a number of times before. Still, it does provide some good stuff: set in the 70’s, they have nailed the 70’s aesthetics which they went for, and the monsters in the movie are actually decent enough, most likely because they are barely visible in any scenes. Their predatory nature is mostly shown in aftermath-scenes where mutilated animals and people are shown, and this actually works in order to heighten the suspense a bit. I’m not sure what the monsters are supposed to be, but I guess they’re some kind of Bigfoot/Yeti/Werewolf hybrid.


Overall, despite not being very memorable and having little new to offer in the genre, Cold Ground was certainly rather pleasant to watch where the nature scenery with snowy areas, mountains and caves makes for an interesting viewing experience. I also like the 70’s style, with added camera grain to make the look more authentic. The combination of filming in those snowy nature landscapes and convincing us that it’s indeed the late 70’s, is what makes this movie stand out at least a little bit.


Cold Ground


Director and writer: Fabien Delage
Country & year: France, 2017
Actors: Doug Rand, Philip Schurer, Gala Besson, Maura Tillay, Fabrice Pierre, Geoffrey Blandin, Cyril Lesage, Regis Testa



Vanja Ghoul








The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

The Pale Blue EyeThe year is 1830, and we’re in a cold October month. Augustus Landor, a widower who lives alone and is also a retired detective, is asked by the military to investigate the hanging of one of their cadets. After the cadet was hanged, his heart was removed from the body. Upon examining the corpse in the morgue, Landor finds clues suggesting that this is not a suicide case, but a murder case. He meets the weird Edgar Allan Poe, who is another cadet at the academy, and the two team up in order to solve the case. Ritualistic animal murders makes them think the murder could be linked to some occult black magic rituals, and when another cadet is also found hanged, with both his heart and genitals removed, Landor and Poe begin to suspect the family of Dr. Daniel Marquis whose daughter Poe has become quite enchanted by.


The Pale Blue Eye is an mystery thriller written and directed by Scott Cooper, and it’s an adaption from a 2003 novel by the same name, written by Louis Bayard. Scott Copper also directed Antlers, so it comes as no surprise that he is able to competently master stories that are dark and atmospheric. Despite the famous Poe himself being a major character here, the story itself is based entirely on fiction, although there are some small slivers of facts mixed in: Poe did indeed attend West Point Academy as a cadet from 1830-1831 (of which he later got himself purposefully kicked out from). There are also a few names and things in the movie that are references to some of Poe’s stories (Landor’s Cottage, for example). And not unexpectedly, you’ll see at least one Raven. Poe fans will probably have a fun time looking out for all the little tidbits referencing his work.


The movie plays out as a standard murder thriller where little bits and pieces are coming into place one at a time. Hidden notes, secrets revealed, red herrings, etc. The common components of a mystery thriller are all there. The pacing is a bit slow, but the focal points here are the gothic, spooky atmosphere, and the performances where both Christian Bale (as Landor) and Harry Melling (as Edgar Allan Poe) do a solid job portraying these characters and their chemistry. While Poe isn’t displayed with his identifiable mustache, you can definitely see the likeness here. And aside from the characters and performances, the murders are grotesque enough to keep you interested in knowing who could be behind such crimes (and why), and the cold wintry scenery puts an extra chill into it all. The fitting soundtrack was made by Howard Shore, who is most known for composing the soundtrack for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies, but is also behind the score of a lot of well-known (and some lesser known) movies in different genres, including horror.


Overall, The Pale Blue Eye is an entertaining whodunnit thriller with some dark twists and turns, blended with gothic atmosphere.


The Pale Blue Eye


Writer and director: Scott Cooper
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Fred Hechinger, Joey Brooks, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall, Gillian Anderson



Vanja Ghoul













The Lodge (2019)

The Lodge (2019)In the hopes of being able to bond with her soon-to-be stepchildren, Grace is staying with them in a remote winter cabin over the holidays. Their father was supposed to stay with them, but is unexpectedly called to work and he cannot refuse, which leaves her alone with the children. With the holidays just around the corner she hopes that they will be able to have a good time, but the isolation and a blizzard traps them inside the lodge. Then, mysterious and frightening things start happening, keeping Grace wondering if it’s just the isolation and the strained relationship to the children, or if it’s the demons from her past that have come back to haunt her.


The Lodge is a chilling psychological thriller, which builds slowly but rewards your patience. The mood is quite unnerving (very much caused by a certain scene very early in the film which really packs a punch), and somewhat similar to what could be felt in Ari Aster’s horror films “Hereditary” and Midsommar: a focus on loss and grief. Together with a splash of trauma, due to Grace’s past in a religious suicide cult where she was the only survivor…and another dosage of resentment, as the children is blaming Grace for their newfound (and not desired) family situation. As you can guess: not exactly the best recipe for a nice holiday vacation at an isolated cabin.


The chilling moments in The Lodge are intensified by the strong performances, both by the traumatized Grace (Riley Keough) and the two children Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh). The cinematography works wonders in depicting the lodge as dark and ominous, with the white snow-filled landscape surrounding it working as a perfect contrast.


Now, The Lodge is a horror movie that may not be for everyone, with a slow build and more focus on psychological tension. There’s a lot of tension in the air, but not necessarily a lot of action. However, its slow build and tense atmosphere is what makes it work for what it is, and results in a creepy and unsettling experience.


The Lodge


Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Country & year: UK | Canada | USA, 2019
Actors: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Danny Keough, ola Reid, Philippe Ménard, Jarred Atkin


Vanja Ghoul















Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous (1999)During the Mexican-American war in the mid 1800’s, Captain John Boyd is sent up in the mountains to Fort Spencer, a secluded camp where a small group of weirdos keeps it guarded. One evening a disturbed, frozen Scottish man named Colquhoun arrives. He tells a horrible story about his gang of people somewhere up in the mountains, who were forced to eat each other in order to survive. Some of the men join Colquhoun and head up to the mountains to look for survivors.


The movie’s tone is set already within its first seconds. You don’t exactly know what to expect, but will quickly realise that this film is one of a kind. The film is known for its black humour, but it is first and foremost a pure horror movie with blood n’ gore where the humour is kept on a more subtle level. The greatest thing about Ravenous is how unpredictable it is, how the tension builds up, and the use of great forest landscapes that adds to the grim, cold atmosphere. It’s always refreshing to see actors actually interact with the real nature instead of standing in front of green-screens in a studio, isn’t it…


It also have top notch actors, but Robert Carlyle as Colquhoun really steals the show here. He does a truly terrifying portrait of his character. Watching his grin with the blood dripping from his mouth as he stares with his crazy eyes…that’s something that just gets under your skin (pun intended).




Director: Antonia Bird
Country & year:  Czech Republic | UK | USA | Mexico, 1999
Actors: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough


Tom Ghoul