Two days ago the new Danish zombie movie What We Become premiered in Danish cinemas. How well will the film go down in a country not used to horror films?
Written and directed by Bo Mikkelsen, What We Become (original title: Sorgenfri) is Denmark’s first ever mainstream zombie movie to be shown in cinemas. Filmed in 2014 and scheduled to be released in October last year, the film was test screened last fall and re-edited prior to its April 31 debut. Upon its general release, the 90 minute film was given an average rating of 3.5 of 6 by seven Danish medias, with some slightly better reviews by the international press after the film’s festival round this winter.
The setting is a residential street in the idyllic town of Sorgenfri (meaning “free of worries”). Our focus is on a family of four. Their daily life changes abruptly, when a deadly virus afflicts the town. Now, it is about survival of the fittest, and the question is whether the family is strong enough as a group to make it through the crisis. -I live in Sorgenfri myself. When I moved there, I thought the town sign had a built-in nemesis in it. A paradise for the upper middle class. It was obvious to make something about a crisis there, Bo Mikkelsen said to politiken.dk
The film cost about 12 million DKK (1.6 million Euro / 1.8 million USD) to make, a medium budget for a Scandinavian theatrical horror movie, and is considered a mainstream movie. Still it will only play in 5 selected Danish cinemas for 14 days, which even for Denmark is a limited theatrical release. The reason for this is that the movie is getting what is called “event screenings”, where the few theatrical screenings are considered marketing for the film’s broader release on video and/or VOD. Theatrical screenings result in media coverage that direct-to-video movies often won’t get. This was not the original launch plan, according to the film’s producer, Meta Louise Foldager. However, tests (test screenings?) and discussions with the distributor SF Film resultet in a limited release prior to a VOD release on stream service Blockbuster. Director Bo Mikkelsen does not plan to challenge this plan: -Danish distributors are not known for taking major risks when it comes to what they throw marketing money at. I could have made a comedy, a children’s film, a biopic or a crime movie, but in stead I made the first zombie film in Denmark, he says, implying that any other genre would have gotten his movie more attention. In an interview, Mikkelsen ponders why genre movies are not hot potatos in Denmark. -I just can’t figure it out. We’re so different from many other countries, where the span is wider. When it comes to film viewers, I just can’t help thinking that maybe the Danes don’t like metaphors. Maybe we want it straight. He adds that the film has been sold to a great number of countries and was screened at the biggest international genre festivals, so maybe not all is bleak for the Danish zombies.
Reactions to the movie have been mixed:
TwitchFilm: […] what makes What We Become taste like a strong cup of good coffee is that the family members are well-drawn individuals, and the actors deliver authentic performances tailored to those roles. Later, when things get crazier, in line with genre conventions, the story takes off based on the characters that have already been developed. That gives everything that happens a greater basis in the reality of the characters, resulting in greater tension, even though we suspect that mankind itself may be doomed. What We Become is surprisingly compelling, not necessarily because of what happens but because of how it happens. It’s the kind of noir-ish horror that is rapidly becoming extinct.
filmz.dk: Even if the ambitions of the Danish genre efforts still can’t reach the Swedish level of Let the right one in, there is a tendency here. Danish first-timers want to see blood. This first-timer wants to see a next-door teenager punch a zombie dead with a baseball bat. It’s not Coca Cola huge, but a soft, crimson softie from Kohberg is still able.
Filmpuls.dk: Sorgenfri is never scary or thrilling. The film is filled with boring characters and relationships, which makes it all a very watery soup. The film does not manage to take that special Danish thing down to Earth, and translate it to realism, but ends up looking like a bad version of a bad American horror film. Respect for trying, though. (Rated 2.7 of 6.)
Ain’t it cool: Sharp stuff. Doess everything Fear the Walking Dead has done in a season with better character work.
What We Become, which is Mikkelsen’s feature debut, stars Mille Dinesen, Troels Lyby, Benjamin Engell, Marie Hammer Boda and Mikael Birkkjær, and will be shown in these Danish theatres for a few more days: Palads in København, Kinopalæet in Lyngby, Nordisk Film Biografer in Odense, and Vordingborg and Nordisk Film’s cinemas in Århus.