From two first-time 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?
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.
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.
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).