10/6/2018 – Iceland: I Remember You (Ég man þig) (2017)
Directed by Óskar Thór Axelsson
We move across Europe from Hungary to one of the smallest countries by population on the continent and both the smallest country I’ve done so far and plan to do this month. Even the Maldives, who were kept out by lack of availability of their films, have a larger population making it not shocking that it’s taken until now (becoming my 23rd country in Europe) to make an appearance. The first Icelandic film, Hadda Padda, was made in 1924, six years after they had achieved independence from Denmark. The nation would become a republic, completely splitting from Denmark in 1944, but it wasn’t until 1949 when Between Mountain and Shore was released, a film generally accepted as the first for the nation and their first sound film.
Releases would be sparse for years afterwards, with even the biggest titles such as Salka Valka, The Girl Gogo, and the international coproduction Hagbard and Signe remaining obscure. Thanks to the investment by the government, the cinema on the island started to churn out a steadier stream of titles in the 1980s including the 1982 musical comedy On Top and the 1984 When the Raven (which would be made into a loose trilogy). The country would receive their only Oscar nomination and win for Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s Children of Nature in 1991.
The titles released since have occasionally popped up on the festival circuit abroad, keeping a low profile though gaining in acclaim. The rest of the ’90s delivered Remote Control (from 1992) and Devil’s Island (from 1996) while the year 2000 saw the debut of one of their most beloved films in 101 Reykjavík (from the director of 2 Guns and Everest) as well as Angels of the Universe (from the director of Children of Nature). Also notable were The Sea (2002) and Noi the Albino (2003) while this past decade has seen The Deep (which made the Oscars January shortlist for 2012), Metalhead, Life in a Fishbowl, Rams (the rare film I’d actually heard about and had in my queue before this), and Heartstone.
That leaves horror and as I indicated yesterday, I’ve been trying to get to get to Iceland for a while as they’ve made a big deal about their first horror releases in recent years. The first horror movies date back to the ’70s with 1977’s The Crimson Sunset and continuing on with 1983’s The House (which was even their submission for Best Foreign Language film), but none of these films are widely available or well known. There’s also the 1985 TV movie Draugasaga, a co-production with Norway that one site indicated was considered of so ill quality in Norway that it was considered proof that they should stop doing co-productions with Iceland altogether.
The first that came to my attention was 2009’s Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (starring The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘s Gunnar Hansen). The name was an instant hook (as I imagine it was for everyone) and I had my eye on it for a while waiting to get my hands on it, but of course, the reviews came in and dismissed it. That process of hype and disappointment was repeated twice more with 2012’s found footage Frost and 2016’s Child Eater (which of course now is available to watch on Amazon Prime and was all set to be added to this year’s lineup). 2017 added two more titles in the gay-themed dramatic horror Rift and today’s title.
Based on the titular novel by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, I Remember You is a mystery story that follows two parallel plots. The primary one is set off after an old woman hangs herself in a church and a doctor (of all sorts it seems as he acknowledges he is a psychiatrist despite an earlier scene showing him doing more medical doctor stuff) heading to the scene to help investigate. Before she died, she scrawled over the walls and made quite the mess. She also had a bunch of crosses carved into her skin some new, some old, crosses that couldn’t have come from the husband she had been increasingly growing apart from since he was away at the time.
The doctor is drawn into the investigation as the suicide appears to have a connection to a series of accident that have increased in recent years, but he is dealing with his own personal issues. His son disappeared three years earlier and while he and his wife are starting to move on, the two of them are still dealing with the grief. Meanwhile, there’s a largely disconnected side plot where a couple and their friend start to experience numerous supernatural occurrences.
It’s a solidly crafted mystery, though it is certainly a slow burn. Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (who’s shown up in a number of Western titles including Alpha and Game of Thrones) turns in a compelling performance as doctor and when the film cuts away to the other three, it strains a bit to make us care. Still, it’s got some lovely Icelandic scenery and even if the plot isn’t elegantly strung together, they do come together fine in the end.
Bonus Episode #11 – A – 2010s: Hatchet III (2013)
Directed by B. J. McDonnell
The first Hatchet film (no relation to the 1987 novel) was a solid comedic slasher movie from Adam Green that starred four-time Jason Voorhees actor Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley. Crowley was a hulking, deformed creature the product of a tragic incident involving troublemaking kids. It was a love letter to the classic era of slashers with appearances by Robert Englund and Tony Todd. After directing the very good, confined horror title Frozen, Green returned for Hatchet II which improved on its predecessor by reveling in the gore and humor even more, but it ran into countless issues with the MPAA which rated it NC-17 and forced the film to be released unrated. It also replaced Tamara Feldman as the female lead Marybeth Dunston, a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her father and brother by Crowley, with Halloween regular Danielle Harris and featured Tom Holland (director of Child’s Play and Fright Night) and R. A. Mihailoff (Leatherface from Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) among others.
I’m not even going to bother marking SPOILERS for the first two Hatchet films from here out so you all have been warned. Following directly on from the end of Hatchet II with Harris seemingly killing Victor Crowley by shooting him in the head at point blank range, the series seemed pretty well over. But if death couldn’t stop any of Crowley’s genre forebearers, it sure as shit wasn’t going to stop hm. The film immediately shows him getting up in the background and then really finishes him off by gorily chainsawing him in half in the cold open. Sadly, it’s the Jason Goes to Hell moment for the film (though not anywhere near as clever) as the film goes downhill quick from here.
Kane Hodder and Danielle Harris return to their roles, but director Adam Green has not (though he did write the film). Zach Galligan (Gremlins) as the sheriff, Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) as an absolutely ridiculous disgraced reporter and his ex-wife, and Sid Haig (Captain Spalding in the Rob Zombie Firefly family films) as Crowley’s racist cousin are the new horror veteran additions for the film.
Marybeth turns herself into the police covered in blood, holding a shotgun and Crowley’s scalp saying she killed him and that they’re all dead which is not a great way to make a first impression. She’s locked up, but then the movie makes it clear which way it is heading as starting your movie by calling the first two movies some of the most contrived decision making may seem like some clever meta-commentary, but it’s not a great way to endear yourself. It’s not the only meta element as there is also a joke about Parry Shen’s recurring appearance in the series in different roles. It’s a joke that would have worked if they hadn’t tried to hammer it in so hard.
Search crews and police are sent to the scene and Crowley returns from the dead killing his way through everyone since there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise. I don’t remember the Crowleys being hundreds of years old as this movie tries to claim, but most of the focus seems to be on redefining or adding to the mythology that I doubt anyone cares about. Most of the dialogue is exposition or attempted humor though often acts convinced that merely saying “fuck” is enough to get a laugh. Harris spends way too much of the movie away from the action, trapped on a boring fetch quest with the reporter and a deputy who at least 2/3 of his lines involve him saying some variation of “we shouldn’t be doing this,” or “we should tell someone first”.
The film’s properly gory, as it should be as it wouldn’t be a Hatchet film if it wasn’t, but they just don’t look up to the same standards as I remember previous installments being. I watched the R-rated version because I couldn’t be bothered to chase down the unrated version and so I missed a bit of it, but I think I got the point. SPOILERS1. That’s about all that’s to be gotten out of this lackluster installment though that were it not for the next film in the series already being out and lined up below, I’d assume was on its way out.
Bonus Episode #12 – A – 2010s: Victor Crowley (2017)
Directed by Adam Green
After a disappointing showing, with Hatchet III, Adam Green’s return as director for Victor Crowley was very much welcome. Granted, he never truly left as he still maintained full creative control over the last film, but I went in hopeful. We also finally get a jump forward in time after the first three were all set within a couple days, jumping forward ten years later to let the plot breathe. For those of you that don’t like Jonah Ray (I know you are many around here), you don’t have to wait long for him to bite the dust (I do think he did a generally good job with the riffing, but man, is he an awkward actor). Once again, here be SPOILERS about previous installments ahead. Parry Shen returns for the fourth as a survivor from the attacks who despite being cleared of all charges, is still believed by many to be the Bayou Butcher. He’s written a book about it and his manager is the delightful Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp.
A group of filmmakers head into swamp to make the film and in an attempt to get the original voodoo curse right, use a YouTube video to accidentally bring back Victor Crowley. A plane crashes into the swamp (which has become a tourist trap) on Shen’s book tour and everyone is forced to hole up in the plane first by threat of Shen’s character who recognizes all the signs and knows to just hide, and later from the resurrected Crowley.
The movie leans even more into the comedy early on before rediscovering some damn horror, handling both parts better than its predecessor. The gore looks a bit better, scenes of suspense are present, the jokes occasionally hit SPOILERS2, and there’s even a bit of effective pathos building off of the abuse Shen’s character has received in the past ten years. It’s all the kind of stuff that having Green back should have fixed and clearly did. Also gone is much of the mythology that the last film added which is for the best.
All the issues aren’t fixed, however. Anyone hoping for Danielle Harris to get back involved in the actual plot, well she’s not actually involved in the movie and it’s not the most engaging lot. The film also stalls out at a certain point when it gets down to the last few people as the suspense disappears and the script starts to repeat itself and stall for time. The entire plot also can’t help but feel incredibly contrived since there seems to be nothing stopping Crowley from killing them all in the plane right away and the film doesn’t even try to give a good justification. Victor Crowley is a definite improvement on Hatchet III and I enjoyed my time with it, but with the almost certain promise of a sequel, I can’t say that anything other than inertia is propelling me to the next installment.
Next up: Our trip through time takes us to the 1940s where we will look at one of the many adaptations of Phantom of the Opera.