From the land that practically created the rape-revenge film genre comes Sargad, which is also Sweden’s newest horror film. Producer-writer-actor Sarah Giercksky explains the film’s background and its relation to #MeToo.
Probably for as long as there have been men and women on this planet, disturbed minds have abused the innocent, and it was often the men that abused the women. Terrorizing the opposite gender in the most personally devastating and intimate way has been used as punishment, as a weapon of war, to enforce ownership, or a consequence of chemically altered brains (drugs, alcohol, illness). Much later, in fact in our own time, abuse and rape and subsequent revenge as entertainment entered pop culture, and in films, it is generally believed it started in Sweden. That’s why Nordic Fantasy talked to producer-writer-actor Sarah Giercksky about her film Sargad, a Swedish word for wounded.Sweden is notorious for producing very few horror films, and when it does, they are mostly completely independent and small. Directed by Andres R. Ramos from a script by Giercksky (who also plays the lead role), the film is about a young woman, Elina, who drives to a cabin with her mother and younger sister to spread her dad’s ashes. Unfortunately they encounter three men that makes their weekend a living hell. Read more about the film in our preview article.
Nordic Fantasy: You are the co-producer, writer and lead actress of this film. How much “your film” is it?
Sarah Giercksky: I consider Sargad to be my film, my baby, since I created the story, the characters and had been working on the script for almost 10 months. I was constantly thinking about Sargad every day for such a long time.
Nordic Fantasy: What made you come up with a revenge film idea in the first place?
Giercksky: When I was younger I used to write a lot of slashers, but when I was growing up I heard close friends and family tell me their stories about being abused, harassed and raped and those stories stuck with me and I naturally began writing revenge scripts. When I had written the screenplay for Sargad I knew that this would be my feature film debut.
Nordic Fantasy: Sweden has an old but sparse revenge film tradition. Did you think about Thriller or did you take inspiration from other films?
Giercksky: I mostly took inspiration from I spit on your grave, but I do like The Virgin Spring and Thriller, so in some way they influenced me aswell.
Nordic Fantasy: Sargad was made before #MeToo but now the film is more relevant than ever.
Giercksky: We filmed the movie before the #MeToo movement started, but it is still a topic that is very relevant to the movie and I guess it is in a way a political statement, but it is mostly a personal one due to all my encounters with women who have suffered and are suffering because of what they have been through.
Nordic Fantasy: Some critics argue that with revenge films, the audience is looking forward to the rape and abuse in a perverse, subconscious way. How do you see your movie in that light?
Giercksky: I am always looking forward to the revenge part in rape/revenge movies due to the fact that most often rapists are walking free so the revenge part is justified because these monsters get what they deserve. To me the more nasty and gruesome the revenge is the better because these people should feel the same pain that they themselves have inflicted.
Nordic Fantasy: Did you consider how far you could go in the film in terms of violence and did you put on any restrictions?
Giercksky: I don’t really have any restrictions when it comes to violence in my movies, for me the more the better. I wanted to have more violence and gore in the film, but due to some of the SFX not working out we had to let some stuff go.
Nordic Fantasy: The film seems to be made by a group of friends and acquaintances. Was it hard to get a cast and crew together for what is basically a completely home made film?
Giercksky: I think everyone was motivated by my script and my passion and they saw the potential in this film. For most of them including myself this was the first time that we worked on a feature film and that also motivated them a lot. I knew almost all of the cast and crew beforehand and they were very passionat about the project. The only issue was getting everyone’s schedule to work since most of us had to work other jobs aswell.
Nordic Fantasy: What was the most challenging part of making the film, thematically or technically?
Giercksky: The limitations of [lack of] a proper budget and time were the two most challenging part of the film. There was also some technical problems due to these limitations, but we had to work around that and we did. As I mentioned earlier some of the SFX did not work and took a lot of time, so we fell behind sometimes and had not time to sort things out properly.
Nordic Fantasy: Having the lead role, you get to slay guys but you also have to walk around in your undies, and there is a sex scene. Was any of that awkward?
Giercksky: No, I didn’t feel that anything was awkward at all, not even the sex scene, because I was very comfortable with the cast and crew.
Nordic Fantasy: There seems to be more women-driven horror and exploitation films right now than usual.
Giercksky: I think that it is largely due to the fact that women want to tell these stories from a female point of view and with the huge success of movies like M.F.A. and Revenge it is clear that this approach to the rape/revenge genre is working and growing.
Nordic Fantasy: What other horror and/or exploitation films are your favourites?
Giercksky: I grew up loving slasher movies, since Halloween (1978) was the first horror movie I ever saw at six years of age. Then I started watching Scream, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Sleepaway Camp etc. Then I started watching gorier films and loved them. The home invasion genre is one that I really love, just because they often feel so close to reality and just thinking about someone breaking into my home, torturing and killing the ones I love, sends chills down my spine. I love almost every subgenre of the horror genre and some of my favorites are The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Noseferatu, Hostel, Saw, The Human Centipede trilogy, A Serbian Film, Headless, The Strangers Prey at Night, You’re Next etc. There are just too many good ones to pick [one].
Nordic Fantasy: You are not only making films, you also run something called Bitches of Horror, what is that?
Giercksky: Bitches of Horror is a YouTube show that I co-host together with my best friend Jasmine Martinez. We review horror movies and interview their creators. We also have special episodes like our New Years episode where we have a fun drinking game and reveal our top ten lists of best feature and short films of the year.
Nordic Fantasy: What did you learn from Sargad that you will take with you into your next movie? And what are your future film plans?
Giercksky: I learned a lot about how to budget a film, how to spend even more time on pre production and to really have everything planned out before shooting. I learned a lot from my own mistakes during the whole process. My future plans is to begin pre-production on the sequel to Sargad together with Xander Turian, who played the part of Oliver. I also hope to get financing for a new feature horror film that I have written called Tis the season to be Jolly which is a Christmas themed horror/comedy. I am also working on my own documentary called Sarah of Horror and later this year I have a few acting parts to look forward to.