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Frostbite Review

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During the Second World War, a Nazi unit in Lapland is attacked by vampires. Sixty years later, Annika (Nielsen) moves to the area to work at a mysterious institute with her daughter Saga (Havnesköld). But the pointy-toothed predators are still there.

★★★★★

This lively and imaginative Swedish horror movie opens with an intense prologue in the swastika-sporting, horrors-of-war style of Cross Of Iron or The Bunker. An SS unit, lost in the frozen wastes of the Ukraine — where the nights are a month long — comes across an isolated house which soon shows signs of vampiric infestation. Their struggle to escape is played in a tough, serious style — but, following a title card which comes a good 15 minutes into the picture, the story picks up in modern times as something like a 1980s teen comedy. During one long night, a town is overrun by vampires after an intern steals a box of red tablets which Professor Beckert (Carl-Åke Eriksson) is using to keep a comatose girl (Elin Gustavsson) going for his own mysterious purposes.

There’s a nice, frosty relationship between the mother-and-daughter heroines, which makes for a two-pronged plot. Annika, the mother, has moved to work with Beckert at the institute, and starts suspecting some nasty doings in the laboratories, while young Saga parties with the hip local kids, who wind up taking the red pills and, well, experiencing some rather odd side-effects. In a funny sequence, medical intern Sebastian (Jonas Karlström) is taken to meet his new girlfriend’s religious parents while feeling the first symptoms. He finds that he can suddenly understand what dogs are saying (rarely helpful), has severe allergies to crucifixes and garlic salmon, and feels unhealthy urges towards the family’s small, cute pet rabbit. The film’s super-fresh approach can go too far, but there are a few neat twists here that haven’t been done in the zillion previous vampire comedies. One quibble though — the compressed timeframe and rushed finish mean that the film doesn’t take advantage of the (surely) vampire-tastic promise of month-long darkness.

Emma Åberg is especially fine as Saga’s friendly, funny Goth mate, but all the characters get their own odd little moments before the horror starts. Tiny, creepy touches (bloody footprints, creatures crawling on a house like cockroaches) are managed as well as the all-out fangface attacks, and there are enough innovative ideas and solid enough characterisations to ground its mood-shifts from serious Grand Guignol to gross-out comedy.

Entertainment horror rather than profundity — but very acceptable, with many excellent set-pieces.

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