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October 15, 2018

10 Cold-Ass Scandinavian Horror Movies

Horror movies come to us from all around the globe, and one of our favorite regions for icy tales of terror is the multi-country gaggle that is Scandinavia. It consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, and collectively these countries’ filmmakers have delivered dozens of memorable horror movies over the years. Well, not Iceland. They’re apparently too busy enjoying their breathtakingly gorgeous scenery to dabble in horror, so while their singular effort — Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre — deserves an honorable mention for its title alone they’re actually the only Scandinavian country not represented in our top ten.

The other four, though, have produced ten fantastic horror flicks that range from the funny to the terrifying, and from the gory to the atmospheric. Serial killers, zombies, monsters, and Santa Claus all make an appearance, so keep reading for a look at the 10 best Scandinavian horror movies as voted on by “Cold” Chris Coffel, Kieran “The Frozen Dead” Fisher, Brrrr Gullickson, Meg Shivers, Jacob “The Jansjö Lamp” Trussell, and myself.

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10. Cold Prey 2 (2008, Norway)

Cold Prey

If 2006’s Cold Prey was a remote hotel-set take on Friday the 13th then it’s only fitting that its sequel two years later would be a riff on Halloween II. As with Roar Uthaug’s original, though, it takes that inspiration and runs with it. Our hero is in the hospital after having faced terror and being the only survivor, but the hulking killer has followed her meaning she’s in for yet another night of slasher shenanigans Familiar? Sure, but director Mats Stenberg gives the film energy, atmosphere, and plenty of thrills. – Rob Hunter


9. Nightwatch (1994, Denmark)

Nightwatch

Part slow burn Danish giallo, part bizarrely comic thriller about male toxicity Nightwatch stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as a morgue’s night watchmen who finds himself embroiled in a string of necrophiliac serial killings in which the victims are left scalped. With fluid, evocative cinematography striking an engaging visual tone the film is a stylish debut for Ole Bornedal, who would helm the competent remake three years later featuring Ewan McGregor. – Jacob Trussell


8. Dead Snow (2009, Norway)

Dead Snow

Nazis belong dead. They’re shorthand for pure evil, and as such, there is no greater delight than watching one have his guts ripped out, his head ripped from his shoulders, and his torso bifurcated by a chainsaw. Other films have zombified these cretins before and set them against poor, unsuspecting human fodder (most notably, Shock Waves), but only Dead Snow delivers on the necessary and gratuitous gore. Pulp ’em. A group of students pack it up for a long Easter weekend and head to a family cabin in the snowy mountains of Norway. Their revelry is disrupted when a horde of undead Nazis tear through their shenanigans. For every nubile beauty that grinds through their gullet, the students repay their savage hunger in an equal manner of dismemberment. Why are the Nazis back from the dead? It really doesn’t matter. The important bit is that they’re back, and we can continue to unleash our judgment upon them decades after their crimes. Never forget. Monsters should be treated as such. Enjoy in the torment. – Brad Gullickson


7. Lake Bodom (2017, Finland)

Lake Bodom

Creative and truly original slashers are few and far between. That’s not a knock on them, they’re my favorite subgenre, but since the early 80’s most have been following a pretty standard template. In 2016 director Taneli Mustonen tweaked that template and delivered a familiar but new and fresh take with the brutal and bloody Lake Bodom. Dimwitted teens are sliced and diced by an unknown killer on a camping trip to re-visit the site of a real life massacre, but things aren’t entirely as they seem. And there’s a scene involving a tow truck that is pretty bonkers. Somehow this one of only two slashers (according to Wikipedia) to come out of Finland. What’s the deal Finland? Get your shit together and stop teasing us with greatness! – Chris Coffel


6. Antichrist (2009, Denmark)

Antichrist

If you watched this year’s Hereditary and thought, “hm, being accidentally responsible for someone else’s death seems like the absolute fucking worst…more please!”— 1) seek help, 2) Antichrist is the film for you. Realized by eternal provocateur Lars von Trier, Antichrist follows the mental, moral, and physical unraveling of a couple contending with the death of their infant. Because when you suffer a tragedy of that magnitude, the only reasonable thing to do is to isolate yourselves in an evil forest, lean into your guilt, and reach for the scissors. A self-loathing document of the cruelty we are capable of inflicting on ourselves and others, Antichrist is probably the best film that should never be recommended to anyone. – Meg Shields


5. Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014, Norway)

A C Yy F

While the first film in this series is a thoroughly enjoyable splatter comedy, the sequel is so gosh darn good that even Adolf Hitler himself would laugh. In this one, the ante is upped as Nazi zombies collide with Russian zombies after our protagonist finds himself with a magical zombie arm attached to him that wields the power to raise the dead. Ultimately, Dead Snow 2 is the greatest cinematic showdown between undead fascists and undead commies in the history of cinema, and if you can stomach the gruesome gags and kids, babies, and priests serving as nothing more than meat for the grinder you’ll have a great time. Not for the squeamish or the easily offended. – Kieran Fisher


4. Trollhunter (2010, Norway)

Trollhunter

The myth of the trolls are long steeped in Norwegian history, famously featured in Henrik Ibsens epic “Peer Gynt” and entombed in Edvard Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King.” Trolls get the 21st century treatment in Trollhunter, André Øvredal’s smartly written riff on the found footage flick. Set in Norway, a group of students making a documentary on a bear poacher get more than they bargained for when they find themselves smack dab in the middle of troll country! – Jacob Trussell


3. Häxan (1922, Sweden)

Haxan

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is a one-stop subversive Swedish-Danish stop for all your witchy historical needs. Written, directed, and starring Benjamin Christensen (who puts in a tongue waggingly maniacal turn as the horn’d one), Häxan is made up of four dramatized sequences that weave between lecture, dramatization, and special effects showcase. Blurring the boundaries of the documentary format, Häxan delights in its historicism while indulging wholeheartedly in sexual repression, demons, and all the forbidden fruits of the occult swamp. A worthy ancestor of the horror genre, Häxan taps into subconscious terror rhythms as only a silent film can, and hey who knows, you might accidentally learn something. – Meg Shields


2. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010, Finland)

Rare Exports

If you read our super definitive Christmas horror list (link to Xmas list for a shameless plug), then you’ll know that Rare Exports is a movie we’re very, very fond of here at FSR. That’s because Rare Exports is the ultimate Yuletide adventure, inspired by some very fascinating European folklore and the only movie I can think of where the elves forget to wear clothes. In this one, Santa (inspired by the Finnish Joulupukki legend) is unearthed from his icy tomb, and he ain’t so jolly or nice. All the naughty children are being punished, and it’s up to a youngster and his father to put a stop to the madness. The atmosphere is hypnotic, and writer-director Jalmari Helander manages to blend mythological wonder with good old-fashioned horror adventure and deadpan comedy to create a very odd and highly entertaining treat. – Kieran Fisher


1. Let the Right One In (2008, Sweden)

Let The Right One In

Horror films are often looked down upon by less enlightened viewers (and critics), but sometimes a film comes along that delivers on the genre front while also being an absolutely beautiful example of pure and unimpeachable artistry. Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (who adapts his own novel) create something spectacular here with a tale that works equally as a coming of age drama and an icy nightmare about an ageless vampire in the body of a child. Friendship, loneliness, and the simple act of “human” connection all come into play even as the bodies pile up and the terror grows. The US remake (Let Me In, 2010) is a rare success, but while it’s a good movie it can’t touch the splendor of this original. – Rob Hunter

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