Review: The Visitors

Sweden’s most popular haunted house movie, The Visitors, is a fun family romp, full of clichés but not hard to digest.

The Nordic region bloomed late in terms of genre cinema and video films (Norway got its horror wave in the 00s, and Sweden and Denmark never got it), and when they finally caved in to the demands of the audiences, it was usually with homegrown versions of what had worked from USA. The Visitors (original title; Besökarna) was therefore predictably, at least in hindsight, going to be a mix of Poltergeist and Ghostbusters, with Swedish actors and a Volvo. Which is exactly what it is. The film is also predictable in sense that many Nordic horror/fantasy films are either loaded with comedy, or aimed at children, but in this case adult film fans will find the film entertaining too.

And just as Poltergeist and Ghostbusters are two enjoyable lightweight horror/fantasy films, so is The Visitors. The story is quite traditional (as it usually is when late bloomers try to make something they hope audiences will recognise); a young family buys a house in the country, trying to establish a new life. But unexplored corners of the house hold dark secrets, and they contact a ghost hunter/exterminator/energy exorcist in order to control these forces.

Based on the acting skills of three familiar faces, Kjell Bergqvist, Lena Endre and Johannes Brost (in this film they’re all quite young and good looking) coupled with a script that takes no chances and plays safe, The Visitors is nicely paced tongue-in-cheek horror for most of the family. Aiming at kids from 6 and up, including non-genre adult viewers, the film throws most of the “101 ways to scare people” book into the mix, while softening the cake with some humour. Innocent and neither gore not brutal violence in sight, but still action packed and you’re never sure how it will end. With only three characters carrying the story, they would have to be well written, and for a movie that is half comedy, they work like a clockwork together. Endre as the sane mother, Bergqvist as the frantic dad, and Brost as the happy-go-lucky ghost exterminator. A small but good ensemble that saves the traditional story from breaking the film apart from within. The film is also quite minimalistic, in that the entire film takes place inside or just outside the haunted house, a kind of closed-room ghost story that also helps keeping the movie together.

For a Swedish 80s film, the special effects are quite good too.

Hardcore genre fans will find the film flimsy, but it has become a favourite for many Swedes, thanks to happy childhood memories of a good scare.

Directed by Joakim Ersgård.

Sweden, 1988.

Rated 7 of 10.

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