There are those who might not be aware of “Nordic Noir,” a term used to describe the recent influx of Nordic genre films and television, but if the quality of genre fare coming out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland continues to remain high, that should change soon. The latest film added to this list is Lake Bodom, from director Taneli Mustonen, who co-wrote the script with Aleksi Hyvärinen.
Slasher films have been around for several decades now; it’s a horror subgenre that is often accused of being stale and predictable. Teens have sex, teens get picked off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways, there’s a final girl who survives, and scene. The best slashers are the original ones that set the parameters in the first place or the newer ones that have fun playing within that particular sandbox. Lake Bodom is a stellar example of the latter.
Based on the real-life unsolved homicides that took place in 1960 (in which four teenagers were murdered near Lake Bodom in Finland), the film opens with four teenagers going out to Lake Bodom to go camping. But wait, there’s more!
Lake Bodom puts a distinctly modern spin on the “horny teens just want to get wasted and get laid” cliché through the character of Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä), who is mildly obsessed with the Lake Bodom Murders and wants to recreate the crime scene in order to solve the case. He looks startlingly like a younger Michael Pitt, which can’t be an accident when one considers the premise of 2002’s film Murder By Numbers.
His friend Elias (Mikael Gabriel) is the “cool” one: he smokes, listens to hip hop, and is covered in tattoos. The two girls they convince to accompany them are Nora (Mimosa Willamo), who appears to be the “bad girl” of the quartet, and her best friend Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee), whose fundamentalist Christian father does not approve of Nora in any way.
Sure, this sounds like a typical teen slasher set-up, but Lake Bodom gets moving quickly so that it can get these stereotypes out of the way and make room for some truly clever twists. The cinematography, from Daniel Lindholm, is fairly stunning at times, definitely far beyond your average low-budget slasher. Lindholm and Mustonen exploit the spooky atmosphere of the lake and the surrounding woods and utilize some magnificent underwater photography to give Lake Bodom an incredibly immersive and undeniably creepy tone.
The actors are also great at handling the various curveballs of the plot as well as the development of their actual characters. Both Nora and Ida quickly reveal themselves to be something other than what we expect, and a subplot about teen bullying not only feels fresh and relevant, but also adds something essential to the development of the story. There are some genuinely disturbing and gruesome scenes towards the end that prove Mustonen knows exactly when to show things and when to merely imply them.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on what Lake Bodom has in store for you, the film pulls the rug out from under you once again, presenting an ending that not only opens the door for a sequel but manages to bring the entire movie full circle. If you’re looking for a smart, scary slasher whose visuals match its screenplay, you’d be wise to watch Lake Bodom.