Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Sweden: Besökarna (The Visitors, 1988)

Maybe I'm lacking the imagination I thought I had when it comes to find interesting Swedish genre movies to write about this week, but the fact is that there's not much movies to choose from. Besökarna (aka The Visitors) launched a short-lived Hollywood career for the Ersgård brothers (including a couple of Charles Band productions: Mandroid and Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight) and after that a couple of fiascos in Sweden. It might sound like I don't like them, but I do - I just think they should go back to make a classic horror movie - because Besökarna, their first movie, proves that horror is what they can do best.

A new family is moving in, it's Frank (Kjell Bergqvist) and Sara (Lena Endre) and their two kids, Lotta and Peter. The house needs a renovation and Frank starts fixing it up directly while he's longing to Monday when he's gonna present an idea for an advertising campaign and get rich. But it won't take long until strange happens in the house. The wallpapers falls down over and over again and Frank starts to hear odd sounds. It won't get better when the clients hates his idea and he needs to come up with a new concept in just a couple of days. But the ghostly visions gets worse and soon he brings a psychic investigator, Allan Svensson (Johannes Brost), to the house - and then when it really goes to... HELL!

It was many years since I saw Besökarna the last time but what strikes me the most now is how terribly the actors are. I mean, this is the crappiest acting of the crappiest acting I've seen in a Swedish movie. Everything an actors gets angry he or she starts to scream and wave a round like a madman. It's ridiculous! Nowadays all the actors are beloved and even Kjell Bergqvist and Johannes Brost have become decent actors (Johannes just got a comeback after a few years out in the cold). But here, oh lord. It's unbelievable! Not sure non-Swedish speaking audiences can notice the same way as we do, but trust me.

So, that was some whining and here's some more: I need to point out the almost overly simple storyline. Good in some ways, but also lacking imagination. It feels a lot like Amityville 3 - lots of noise but nothing is shown, which a movie like this needs. The main ghost/demon looks cool, for example, but is seen for less than one single second. And no, that's not good. When you don't have so much to deliver, bring on the monster instead - but the Ersgård brothers stay away from that also.

On the other side: the second half is actually damn effective as a ghost movie. The filmmakers goes all the way (except showing the demon enough) with moving objects, violent entities trying to bash in the door, kids in danger, visuals effects and pyrotechnics - and a nice sequence when one character is stuck hanging upside-down trying to reach the button to stop the demon from breaking free from it's mirror-hell. Stuff like that, I love it so much. There's also a good and very well-edited car chase that actually is quite spectacular in it's own discreet way. Maybe the only good car chase ever filmed in Sweden.

I will try to end on a positive note. Besökarna is probably the best haunted house movie ever made in Sweden - but it might also be the ONLY haunted house movie ever made here (I'm not even counting the awful Scorched Heat from 1987). Okay, I tried. It's still entertaining and delivers a lot of visual treats during the last half. I think I can recommend it to fans of obscure Eighties horror-nonsense.


Anonymous said...

"but it might also be the ONLY haunted house movie ever made here"

Perhaps you are right.....I was thinking about Richard Hoberts Ålder okänd (1991)....but is not a real haunted house film.

It´s been long time since I saw this one.....remember it to be flawed, uneven....had some great scenes though.

I wonder if Volvo sponsored this film..?

Great review ninja....and yeah The Ersgård brothers were not very good at directing their actors....incredible flawed performances by everyone...even a pro like Endre.

William S. Wilson said...

I revisited this after 20 years and came to the same conclusion as you. I really like the atmospheric stuff in the attic and wish they had done more. There is some nice camerawork too.

What is really funny though is I saw SCORCHED HEAT the other night for the first time. Wow! And then I just had to feed the urge to revisit Peter Borg's SOUND OF SILENCE, which I actually liked back in the day.