Yes, it’s the OTHER Swedish vampire movie set in a snowbound community.
FROSTBITE [a.k.a.: Frostbiten]
Director: Anders Banke
What’s It All About?
There are really quite a few answers to this, but largely the film revolves around a doctor named Annika (Petra Nielsen) and her 17 year old daughter Saga (Grete Havnesköld) who move to a northern Sweidsh town where Annika is starting a new job. Over their first weekend there (also the first weekend of a month long polar night) various misadventures turn a lot of the town’s teenagers (Saga’s new friends) into vampires.
Why Haven’t You Seen It?
Well, there’s actually more chance of you having seen it if you live outside of Sweden, where it wasn’t even picked up for distribution. In the UK, while Soda gave it a brief cinema release, it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact, and though it’s an ideal Friday night beer and pizza movie, for many audiences the fact its in Swedish is probably a barrier to enjoying it on that level.
That, and the fact that, since its 2006 release, it has been comprehensively overshadowed by some other Swedish vampire movie that everyone really likes.
Why Should You See It?
Here’s the thing, I’m not going to tell you that Frostbite is one of the world’s great films, it clearly isn’t. It’s silly, scattershot, frequently overacted and boasts a few ropey production values. But that’s actually all part of why I really enjoy this film. It’s hokey, but it knows that it’s hokey, and it isn’t trying to be much else.
It’s really all about the tone; Frostbite has a nice vein of silly humour running through it. Most of the vampires that are created in the film aren’t bitten, they are teenagers who are given pills which, they discover too late, contain vampire blood (because their med student supplier can’t get anything else) and their transformations are played for laughs much of the time. One especially strong sequence has Sebastian (Jonas Karlström) attempting to have dinner with his girlfriend’s parents in the middle of his transformation; it’s a very funny scene that plays not on the horror but on the social awkwardness of becoming a vampire. There are also a lot of laughs to be had at the party where Saga’s new friends become vampires. As the mayhem begins it is seen largely in the background; the kids barely noticing as the first of their number are eaten because they are too busy being drunk or chatting each other up.
If Anders Banke’s vampires are cliché and cartoony (which they are) they are played with relish by a cast that are clearly enjoying themselves, few more so than Emma Åberg, whose Vega retains her brash but rather charming personality even as a vampire, scoring one of the film’s bigger laughs with her last line. There is a wide variety in how the vampires are depicted. Annika’s boss, who is using his work as a geneticist to refine his own vampirism, is seen as a feral monster. The kids are largely regular boisterous kids, except drinking blood rather than beer and Sebastian seems the most animalistic, devouring small animals and attacking people.
It’s a bit of a shame that the film is so short, because there is a lot of ground to cover here, from a World War II set prologue (the film’s scariest passage) to the climactic cross cutting of about four groups of people, all dealing with vampires for themselves, and the abbreviation means that, for example, Saga isn’t really developed enough, leaving the character to get by on the abundant likeability of Grete Havnesköld. Spending a little extra time with this film would be no chore either, as it does leave you wanting more.
Banke (who has since remade Johnnie To’s Breaking News as Newsmakers) has some effective moments as director; he gets decent leading performances from Nielsen, Havnesköld and Åberg, enough to draw you into the dynamics between Saga, her Mother and this strange new girl who wants to be friends (“I’m not exactly Vega’s date”, she’s quick to clarify on arriving at the party). There also some nice visuals, notably the opening sequence which makes effective use of both a snow covered landscape and a creepy cabin in the woods, and a rather incongruous image of kids hanging around before school, in a landscape that looks like it’s still the middle of the night.
I wish Frostbite had a sequel. The twin endings beg for one, and the whole thing is enough fun that I’d like to see its ideas pull together a bit more in a second movie (especially the dynamics of Saga’s family), but this film is what it is, and while it’s not going to challenge or stimulate you intellectually, you could do a lot worse on a snowy winter’s day than pick up this very entertaining little horror comedy.
How Can You See It?
It’s available free and legally to watch streaming on indiemoviesonline (click here). Couldn’t really have made it any easier for you, could they?