Another year, another Ramaskrik Horror Film Festival! As always it has been a memorable weekend filled with lots of horror movies, old and new friends, beers and generally a great time.
I think the general quality of the films was even better this year compared to previous years, something I think can be attributed to the growing reputation of this small festival in the mountain town of Oppdal, Norway. Another observation was that this year more of the films were based on rather light or humourous premises. There were some great examples of the opposite, darker themed films of course, but the general tendency seemed to be films themed around good old fun and violence. I don’t mind either, but the real thrill for me is the films that are able to drag me deep into the darker parts of the human psyche.
As with previous years, this trip starts on the Horror train from Oslo to Oppdal where the festival is held. This time the organizers had booked the early train from Oslo, which did seem excruciatingly early at that time in the morning. On the other hand, we were able to catch more films as we arrived earlier, though, so I think I favour the change. Most of the passengers in our section of the train was familiar faces from previous years, but quite a few new faces had made it out of bed too! Pretty soon everyone was quizzing and socializing. Great mood, and pretty soon the trip was over, and it was time to check in at the hotel.
One of the films I had looked forward to this year was Bajo la Rosa (Under the Rose, 2017, Spain) but checking in to the hotel took longer than the time from the train arrived until the film started. I wasn’t too worried about this, as I had another opportunity later in the festival to see it, so I went to fetch some food before the next film instead. Major mistake, more about that later.
The first film I was able to see was another spanish film, El ataúd de cristal (The Glass Coffin, 2016, Spain.) A great take on the claustrophobic, enclosed in a small space horror story. An original story, great performance from the actor, stunning visuals and a strong soundtrack lifts this way above what I expected from the description. Highly recommended!
Next up was Vampyrvidar (Vidar the Vampire, 2017, Norway) a completely different kind of film. This is a comedy, but with some serious themes hidden in the wrapping. We meet Vidar, a sexually frustrated sheep farmer from the south-western part of Norway. What we call the "bible belt" in these parts. Praying for better luck with the girls, preferably the young ones ("20 plus") his wishes are granted by a vampire Jesus. Things don’t go quite as Vidar had hoped… Great fun, and tacfully blasphemous (to borrow a term from one of the other in the festival audience.) Not sure how well it will work outside of Norway, but if you like quaint comedy with vampires, blood and small town religious lunacy, give it a spin!
The official opening film of the festival this year was another Norwegian film, Hjemsøkt (Haunted, 2017, Norway.) While at heart it is a classic haunted house movie, I think it scores some extra points due to an interesting backstory and the main actor’s (Synnøve Macody Lund) performance. Set in the cold winter landscape of Norway, the visuals gives the film a distinct and chilling feel to it. I really liked this film. Recommended.
Last film for me this thursday was Revenge (France, 2017) an intense rape/revenge film with the main focus on the revenge part! This was an action packed end of the first day, and a great film to follow with a few beers back at the hotel. Recommended!
Friday started off quite relaxed. Waking up to the view above out the hotel room window was not such a bad start, and the first film of the day didn’t start until 11:30. So plenty of time to enjoy the hotel breakfast before getting seated.
I heard mixed reviews of Happy Hunting (2017, USA) in advance, but I have to say I liked it. The premise is not very original, but the characters, atmosphere and story unfolds in an entertaining mix of small-town madness, desert landscapes and alcohol/drug addiction.
Next up for me was Tonight She Comes (2016, USA), which can best be described as a high school sexual comedy mixed with Evil Dead, and the blood of Braindead. Lot’s of body fluids and quite funny, but gets a bit predictable. Still entertaining enough. I especially liked the puritan satanic family at the end.
For the third slot I was unsure wether to go for Tragedy Girls (2017, USA) or Leatherface (2017, USA). I ended up going for the first. I found Tragedy Girls to be quite entertaining. On one level it works as a commentary on the shallowness of social media and it’s selfmade celebrities, as well as being a decent splatter and a high school drama at the same time. At times it becomes too much high school drama, which in my view drags it a bit down. Still an entertaining and fun film with a few nice splats along the way.
This was about the time I decided to skip dinner to be able to watch more films. Popcorn and Svele helps to keep starvation at bay, and I was ready for the next film!
Nails (2017, Ireland) is at the first glance a fairly traditional ghost story. Set in an old hospital complete with long dark corridors, flickering lights and strange sounds in the night this could have been just another collection of jump scares. I think it goes well beyond that, though. The main character is paralyzed after an accident, and unable to move she can only observe what happens around her at night. The story is decent, but the performance and how the story unfolds works to its advantage. Also after all the more fun-based films so far, a darker piece was very welcome. I recommend you check it out!
Next to last film on friday was Happy Death Day (2017, USA). We’re back to a lighter and more entertaining film again, but one that works surprisingly well. This is a scary murder mystery. The films main character is being murdered on her birthday, only to have to relive the same day again and again, until she can find out who kills her. A somewhat refreshing take on much of the same premise as behind Groundhog Day.
I decide to end the day with Kodoku Meatball Machine (2017, Japan). Which did not work at all for me. The film tries to replicate the style of fighting anime cartoons, but with real film and actors. The monsters look like something taken out of the Warhammer 40k role playing game, with about as interesting dialog as you can expect from that. If this sounds like your thing you may want to check it out, but my recommendation is to go watch something else instead. It’s a bit of a shame, because the beginning of the film builds up to something that could have been interesting, and the actual premise of the story could have been made into an interesting (short) film. In this case that did not happen, though.
Well six films in one day is quite enough anyways, so off we go for some beers and discussions of the films we have seen this day.
Halfway into the festival it begins to dawn that it will not last forever. The screenings start a bit earlier today, but after a hearty breakfast I’m ready for Mayhem (2017, USA). Quite a rollercoster of a zombie-horror set in an office building. For those of us having worked in large office complexes, this film had almost a therapeutic effect! An original take on the genre, well executed and great start of the day! Highly recommended!
Next up was a Wettlaufers Enke (Wettlaufers Widow, 2001/2017, Norway). A 30 minute amateur film that has waited 16 years before being screened. Originally filmed in 2001, the director was too self-conscious to release it, so it was shelved until he finally got enough courage to release it after 16 years. I’m really happy he did, because the film is well made, has great atmosphere and an original story. Shot in a murky black and white really enhances the feeling of unease. Recommended!
Then I did a major mistake again. I went to see Kurt Josef Wagle og mordmysteriet på Hurtigruta (Kurt Josef Wagle and the Coastal Express Murder Mystery, 2017, Norway.) Unless you happen to like movies that work on the premise that "this is funny because I talk with a funny voice," you don’t need to waste your time on this drivel.
After such a let down, there was only one thing to do: Go get some food and a beer to get back into the mood. That meant I missed Killing Ground (2016, Australia) which I had planned to see. Oh well…
Back at the Hotel to drop off some more movies I bought at the stand of Another World Entertainment at the festival, I stumble upon a chance to see the new Reinert Kiil movie, Juleblod (2017, Norway). Again Ramaskrik is hosting a special screening for one of it’s films. Last year they showed Howl in a train car, and the year before that again, Villmark II in an outdoor cinema in the forest. This year we went to an old barn at the Oppdal Museum where we were fed porrige before the film was screened. The director and main actors were present, and answered questions after the screening. A very enjoyable experience!
The film is dark, and has a good story. Still there are some parts that are dragged on for too long, and I think the police detectives are way too caricatural. Still, Santa is doing a nice job of eradicating the naughty boys and girls, and there are some splendid splats in this movie. Recommended!
Back at Oppdal Kulturhus where the rest of the screenings are held, we arrive just in time for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (2017, USA.) This is absolutely not a horror film, but still a film that is dark enough that many in the audience wanted to see it anyways. Also it’s not very common to be able to watch films this far in advance of general availablility (more than one month before US release, and about four months before Norwegian release.) Another great experience at Ramaskrik, and we even got a limited poster to prove it!
As for the film, this is a beautifully filmed beauty and the beast-like story. Guillermo del Toro is a master of making visually stunning films, and this is no exception. The story is good enough, and the performances are as you would expect them. I enjoyed it, and I think quite a wide audience will do too.
Last film for me this saturday was Victor Crowley (2017, USA,) a film that did not really work that well I think. A jungle slasher that for the most part plays out in the body of a crashed plane. This could have been an interesting setting, but it fails to build anything worthwile. Again the characters are more charicatures than people you can identify with, and there’s really no chemistry neither between the actors, nor the location. A film that can be safely skipped.
Last day of the festival already? Oh well, off we go and start with Hounds of Love (2016, Australia). Beautifully shot, great soundtrack and a captivating story. One of the best, but also by far the most difficult film to watch at this festival. A gritty and realistic film about a young girl abducted by a couple for sex and then disposal. Highly recommended, but perhaps not as the first film after you wake up!
Next up was Freehold (2017, UK). Introduced as probably the most disturbing film of the festival, which it well might have been. A lot of fun though. Not so much horror, as a creepy black comedy, but it works really well. Very different from most other stuff I’ve seen. Highly recommended!
Throughout the festival several short films are screened before the main features. Here’s the shorts I came across this year:
Buzzcut (8 min, 2016, USA) Getting a haircut proves to be more difficult than anticipated, due to the impending doomsday. Fun little number, with great effects!
Storage (6 min, 2017, USA?) Something’s lurking in the cellar of an appartment complex. Well made, creepy and good story.
Great Choice (7 min, 2017, USA) A surreal ride that’s best to see without any advance knowledge. Well worth watching!
Fucking Bunnies (Saatanan Kanit, 17 min, 2017, Finland). A satanic sex cult moves in next door. Complications arise. Great fun!
Again, a great festival is over, time to say goodbye to old and new friends, thanks to the organizers and the always friendly staff at Skifer Hotel and head for other adventures. Next Ramaskrik will held at 18. - 21. of october 2018. I’ll definitely be there again if at all possible!