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Review: Corridor April 19, 2014

Posted by Editor in Horror, Reviews, Sweden.
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From two first-timeisoleraddvd directors comes Corridor, a Swedish psychological horror-thriller that leaves you clueless about wether the characters are mentally ill, victims of terror or just overly nervous.

Frank is a young Norwegian student of medicine in a big Swedish city. He lives in an apartment building, and one day he meets the girl who lives on the floor above him. Somewhat against his will she starts to ask him for favours, but when the girl’s older male friend finds out she is hanging out with Frank, things start to smell bad. The already nervous and convoluted Frank finds himself on a downwards spiralling pathway of misinterpretations, lack of control and internal pressure.

This small-scale production (original title: Isolerad, which means “isolated”) runs 75 minutes and takes place almost exclusively in Frank’s apartment building, with some scenes taking place at the university. This scale is not just a budget concern, but it also fits the story and the scope of Frank’s mind; it’s not stated in the film, but he seems to have some kind of disorder that makes him uncomfortable when his routines and patterns are disturbed. Frank’s world is a small box, and so is the movie. And that’s a good thing, because this horror-thriller is a very personal story, with Frank being one of several characters whose personalities are the main driving force of the chain of events. It’s interesting to note that none of the characters are particularly nice. Not even Frank; he’s not some kind of hero. He’s an average student, he does not have great social skills, his motivations are probably not great (his father is a surgeon, so we can assume there is family pressure on him as well), and he deals with his enemies – which are all around him, including little children – in a bad way. If that isn’t dark enough, there is more, but you’ll have to see the movie to find out what. Let’s just say that Frank got what he deep down wanted, and he wasn’t happy about it. Having a protagonist that is not too nice is a bold choice, because are we not supposed to root for the good guy?

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Frank is played by Norwegian Emil Johnsen, who speaks mostly Norwegian during the film. He does a great job of portraying the focused, but anxious Frank. The character is not likeable, but you will still get sympathy for him as the story unfolds, due to the annoying and threatening people he meet. This is one of the things that makes the script stronger. Nothing is clear-cut; there are a couple of surprise – though not huge twists sometimes seen in thrillers – but the strength lies in the layers of the mind that Frank and the other characters represent. The film balances on a very fine line which cuts smack in the middle of physical actions on one side, and mental processes on the other side. You end up asking yourself; who is mad, who is sick, who is just a normal person squeezed in a bad relationship? It’s all very Hitchcockian, although the feel of the film is more realistic than anyting Alfie ever made. And like many of Hitchcock’s films, this film is not your typical blob of gore, jumpscares and masked killers. It stays firmly on the ground, using atmosphere and tension and actors rather than special effects and exotic locations. This is not a case of “the building becomes a character” like some haunted house movies. Corridor is even less than that in terms of effects and trickery, but it’s still an edge-of-your-seat experience as the potential terror that Frank envisions gets closer and closer.

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The multi-award winning Corridor stars mostly unknown actors, but everyone will recognise Peter Stormare in a large supporting role, and Swedes will also recognise Lars Väringer from movies and TV, in a small role.

Speaking of Hitchcock, one also notes that even though the images are rather video-like, almost like a documentary (perhaps to underline the realism of the film) and this, together with the camera and its angles and positions, is used to set the film in a universe of its own. It’s not a stylish universe, and it is not the semi-cinematic look found in the mass-produced Beck and Wallander series either. Swedish thrillers are most of the time trying to look bigger and better than they are, but this film knows its boundaries and works as efficient as possible within them. There are no flashy, shiny, beautiful people either; that would break with the grit and realism of both the theme and the visual presentation. Any film must know its place, and this knows it very well, and thus is avoids being just another Yellow Bird-ish or SVT-esque production. There are echoes of good old kitchen-sinkism throughout, but in this case that actually adds familiarity and thus tension to the terror.

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The film does feel a bit like an exam project from film school or a very long independent short film. It also smells of “indie debut” and while it actually is a debut film, it did get support from both government institutions and public broadcaster SVT. Still a low budget film, but one that does not blend in (that’s a good thing) and has its own voice.

Rated 8 of 10.

Directed by Johan Lundborg & Johan Storm.

Sweden, 2010 (released in 2012).

Review: Threads of Destiny April 13, 2014

Posted by Editor in Reviews, Science Fiction, Sweden.
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Fan films have been made before, but they are not always as ambitious as the Swedish Threads of Destiny; a feature-length chapter of Star Wars, complete with laser swords and tons of CGI.

Written, filmed and edited TODpostersmallover several years, Threads of Destiny is made by Swedish amateurs, volunteers and fans, with the help of equally budgetless friends from around the world. The budget was literally one or two monthly salaries, in other words practically zero in the context of a science fiction film. This is important to tell you up front, so you don’t go into the movie expecting a half-assed low budget Syfy or Asylum knock-off. The budget and technical resources for Threads of Destiny were waaay below the cheapest movie Syfy ever made!

That said, movies like this can not be compared to “real movies” in terms of technology or professionalism. There’s something else at work here, and the dedication shown by the creators, the attention to details attempted by the crew, and the ambitions of everyone involved is – given their lack of resources – very high for a lengthy fan film. Evidently, much thought has gone into the story, characters, costumes, props, sets, digital effects, music, and sounds – even if they don’t always hit the mark. The film is 100% aligned to the official Star Wars universe, not only in the story but also in the overall visual design and feeling of the film. I clearly get a true Star Wars vibe, at least the kind of vibe I got from the second trilogy, which this film is closer to in most respects. That may not be a good thing in some people’s eyes, but assuming that that was a goal with the project, they definitely succeeded wether personal taste approves or not.

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The story is also what I would call a typical Star Wars story; set a century after Return of the Jedi, the story takes place as the Jedi order and the Republic are once again active. The planet Coreign produces a special ore that can power an entire city, but the Skenvi empire is interested in its potential for supreme spaceship armor. That’s the framework though, as the actual action focuses on Skenvi’s Lord Siege’s kidnapping of Princess Arianna and the efforts of the Jedi knights to get her back.

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Probably the first ever full-length Star Wars fan film, Threads of Destiny does indeed include everything you expect from a film in the franchise, except perhaps a wookie. That is also a weakness, as so many things are copied from George Lucas’ trilogies. One older and one younger Jedi, the cantina sequence, a princess in peril (who also falls in love with a Jedi), a space ship race through an asteroid belt, storm trooper fights, even the scene wipes, to name a few. Patrik Hont, who plays the young Jedi knight Raven Darkham, is also incredibly Hayden Christensen-looking. Certain things must of course be present to qualify a film as part of a franchise, but some creative choices do not cost money and I was hoping to be surprised once or twice. Now the film appears to be more concerned about fitting in and delivering the goods than surprising viewers. Even though the surprise is perhaps the fact that they managed to stitch everything together, the level of ambition seems higher than that.

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It also takes a while before any exciting action takes place. There’s a lot of dialogue, introductions and preparatory events, but the pacing of a film is important, and consideration should not just be given to exposition, set-up and explanations. Perhaps a few hints of what to come, or more compressed dialogue in the beginning would help. The film clocks in at 107 minutes, which is shorter than the official Star Wars films but longer than most low budget films that can only afford to shoot dialogue. That should ring some bells in the editing bay – more than one sequence feel as a repeat, or drawn out. Even though it might be part of the budgetary restraints to have less action, it is an important part of film making to be able to kill your darlings.

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What about the CGI then? There’s lots of it, especially for such an extremely low budget production. Some of the scenes work well; at first glance, they look like well produced computer games or medium budgeted films. In other scenes, the CG images are muddy or blurred, and the greenscreen capture sometimes remind me of bluescreen technology from the 80s. Seeing that some scenes are well executed from a CGI point of view, it appears unnecessary that other scenes are of such poor quality.

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Read more about the film or watch it in full.

As far as I can see, all the actors are unpaid volunteers and only hobby thespians, which has resulted in virtually all dialogue being spoken in a thick Swedish accent. This has annoyed many Swedish viewers, either because they are used to flawless English from Angloamerican movies, or Swedish actors speaking in Swedish. Granted, the actors’ English is not the best, but acting is more than tone and pronounciation; it is also about body language, mimicry, timing and focus. And overall, for a fan film, the cast does a pretty good job.

All things considered, and taking into account that you can watch the film for free (Lucasfilm allows fan films as long as they are not generating any income), Threads of Destiny is a film the makers can be proud of, as they have achieved something few people have done before them. The entertainment value depends on how forgiving you are of the nonexiseant budget and the amateur actors.

Rated 5 of 10.

Directed by Rasmus Tirzitis.

Sweden, 2014.

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