In cinemas tomorrow: Lyst, the new Norwegian horror film which has been hyped for its gore and gruesomeness. Will Severin Eskeland’s new film reinvigorate the Norwegian horror movie?
The Norwegian horror film wave may have lost power and have become mere ripples, but tomorrow the feature film Lyst is trying to make a splash anyway. Directed by Severin Eskeland, whose horror-thriller Detour (2009) was his debut feature that sold 50.000 tickets in Norway (a small but not a huge hit – Dark Forest from 2003 was considered a success at 150.000 tickets sold), the film is only one of two Norwegian horror films scheduled for 2017.
Shot in 2015 over two weeks, Lyst (which means something like desire, want) tells the story of the famous crime writer Lisa Rostorp who becomes a victim after a crazed fan brutally attacks her. She isolates herself in her apartment, trying to cope and get on with her life, but when she starts to experience increasingly strange events. Not only her psychiatrist but Lisa herself starts to question where reality ends and fantasy takes over. It doesn’t take long before she is convinced that her attacker is back and stalking her, and Lisa unravels.
When Severin Eskeland did not find a job on another planned movie project, he sat down to write the script for what became the revenge movie Lyst. He ended up being both director, producer and writer, and decided to use only a few locations to keep costs down. The film has been funded independently and was made on a shoestring budget, as Eskeland did not even try to get public funding from the Norwegian film institute or other public bodies. -I don’t want to spend weeks writing applications, knowing that we’ll get refused no matter what. I know about two or three other horror movies that are being filmed now and they are also not getting NFI money, he said to NRK. Eskeland thinks NFI simply does not take horror movies seriously.
Lyst is claimed to be one of the most explicit and gory Norwegian movies so far, with old-school physical effects by Per-Ingvar Tomren, who previously made the killer-Santa movie Christmas Cruelty (2013). -Maybe I pushed the limits. Where other movies would have stopped, we went on [with the violence] and I think this is the toughest stuff that has been made in Norway. We had a test screening in Bergen, and several people in the audience asked us to stop the movie. They could not watch it, Severin Eskeland said to TV2. The film has been given Norway’s strictest rating, “18 years”, and was originally made to be shown at horror- and splatter film festivals, since the director thought nobody would show the film in Norway. Now it is getting theatrical distribution all over Norway by Another World Entertainment, whose representative says the movie is intended for “an experienced horror audience who knows what they are in for”.
However, crimson guts and brutal retaliation alone would not be typical of a Norwegian film and Eskeland wanted his film to have more. -Lyst is a film that beside from being a very serious horror/thriller, also has some social commentary to it. At least that was the general idea. Women across the globe often gets attacked, and many of their cases either get buried, or they end up not even reporting it, leaving the perpetrators to get off. The film’s main character gets mentally sick after the gruesome home invasion she experiences. She takes action into her own hands when the authorities don’t see evidence that an attack ever happened to her, the director explained to Nordic Fantasy. In cinematic terms, Lyst is inspired by several David Lynch films, mainly Lost Highway. Eskeland is also “a sucker” for the new French horror scene. -Inside is one of my all time favorite horror films, and I have tried to create some of the same gritty atmosphere in Lyst, he added.
There is also another theme that could be applied to Lyst, and indeed Eskeland’s other movies; isolated cabins, a closed basement, remote forests, and now Lisa who isolates herself after an attack. Coincidence? For Eskeland, true horror lies in isolation and claustrophobia. He is driven to make movies by the things we cannot control ourselves. -Personally I enjoy isolation from time to time, and it helps me write. [In my films] I always put my characters in places were they don´t have total control. I wrote Lyst in a remote little cabin, and I also traveled to Spain and finished it there alone.
As Severin Eskeland was part of the first Norwegian horror scene with his debut film in 2009, he might have some thoughts about where Lyst fits in to the 2010s version of that scene? -I truly hope and believe that my film has something to add to the genre. It is very experimental, and more artsy than your average slasher or ghosthouse film. That was the reason I wanted to write and make this one. Do something that even I haven´t seen too much of before. And of course I really pushed the bar when it comes to realism, the psychological aspect, and yeah of course, graphic violence.
In addition to short films, Eskeland’s two features so far has been horror movies. Is that a genre you’d like to continue working in, or is it a coincidence that you made horror films? -I started making films because of Friday the 13th: The final chapter when I was about twelve or thirteen, sneaking a copy around friends actually, so obviously my first amateur movies became horror films. Me and my friends started using the family’s camcorder on the weekends, bought a lot of ketchup and got messy. The camcorder on one shoulder, and a tapedeck on the other. It [was about] hitting “play” at the same time. We came together the next weekend and screened for the rest of our friends and that was that. Growing up with the love of horror movies has sort of become me. It’s something I truly love, and I always get chills from seeing a good horror film. Of course when you spend a lot of time focusing heavy on one genre, and especially horror you see a lot of not so good movies, but even that gives me great pleasure. Nothing motivates me better than to see a poorly made film. It makes me wanna run out and make more. Not shitty ones though. So for the question, of course I wanna make more horror, but i’m not saying that´s the only thing I wanna make. If the right idea or script comes around I would likely jump on it. Black humour is a big part of my film collection.
What horror director would you not mind writing a script for, if you hypothetically were offered a job? -There are so many horror directors I really like. Many of the masters of horror have unfortunately faded in quality as they got older, so even if I truly love the great ones like Carpenter, Romero, Argento, Landis and many more, I most likely would have chosen the guys who are in the business now, and getting real good films done. If I could pick one, I probably would have gone for James Wan or Alexandre Aja.
The last (rape) revenge horror movie to be shown in Norwegian cinemas was Manhunt (original title; Rovdyr) in 2008, a quite brutal movie in itself. Since then, rape-revenge has only been depicted in direct-to-video underground movies such as The thrill of a Kill (2011) and The whore (2009). In fact, the latter film, directed by The House‘s Reinert Kiil, also has a female author who isolates herself in a cabin with attacks ensuing. -I don´t think [my movie] has anything resembling to Kiil’s film, although there are bits of the same thematics. Lyst is a story that’s more psychological where the audience, and Lisa, can’t separate reality from fantasy. Hopefully the audience will find this interesting, Eskeland told us in a comment.
In Norwegian media, Lyst was given a 5 of 6 score by Nettavisen and a 4 of 6 score by Kinomagasinet, Cinema, Dagsavisen, and NRK’s Film Police. Radio Nova awarded the film a 7 of 10 score. Bergens Tidende said the film was “Norway’s most grotesque horror movie ever”.
The 84 minute film stars Magdalena From Delis, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, Damian Gallagher, Jimmi Salomonsen,Reinert Horneland, Torill B Falk, Ståle Eskeland and opens in 75 Norwegian theatres on April 21, 2017.