Frostbite (aka Frostbiten) Movie Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
Film released by Soda Pictures
Directed by Anders Banke
Written by Daniel Ojanlatva
2006, 96 minutes
Petra Nielsen as Annika
Grete Havnesköld as Saga
Emma T Åberg as Vega
Jonas Karlström as Sebastian
Carl-Åke Eriksson as Professor Beckert
Niklas Grönberg as John
Mikael Göransson as Jacob
Midwinter. Doctor Annika and her daughter, Saga, have moved to a small town in Lapland for a job Annika is to take working in the local hospital — a job particularly appealing to Annika since she gets to work with the famous geneticist, Professor Beckert. Saga starts at the new school and quickly makes friends with a slightly annoying goth-girl (Vega), and secures herself an invite to a party that looks like it’s going to be the social event of the year and the only distraction from the boredom of small town life.
Meanwhile, some strange things are happening in the town. The local police are starting to worry when they’re called out to investigate an old lady who claims a teenager mauled her poodle and now won’t stop apologising. Things get even worse when they discover they’ll need to don their riot gear if they want to interrogate him. There’s something nasty going on in the cold and dark of the middle of the night, and there’s more than a month until dawn.
The premise of Frostbite is extremely promising. Blood on snow. A modern vampire movie set against the seemingly endless night of Lapland in the polar winter. I was expecting something gothic, shadowy and bleak.
However, Frostbite is a comedy as well as a horror, and it took me a fair section of the film to realise it. The humour isn’t referential or “splat-stick”, it comes from placing very ordinary mundane characters and dialogue within very shocking, ridiculous and absurd situations. It’s genuinely very funny at points, with some lines and scenes that are surprising and original, and show a real comic flare (I have to mention the “stop throwing gnomes at me!” scene for starters). Its strong sense of the absurd might put some people off if they’re not expecting it — although in some ways it’s quite like Shaun of the Dead in placing the very ordinary against the very extraordinary. But while Shaun of the Dead is very much a comedy with zombies in it, the gothic style, exquisite score and the frequently explicit gore scenes make this much more a vampire movie with comic sensibilities.
The special effects and make-up in Frostbite are good (although some of the matrix-style moves are a bit tired) and the camera doesn’t shy away from close ups of the main vampires or much of the gore.
There are a few internal inconsistencies with Frostbite's vampires. Some seem to recoil at artificial light on some occasions (and not on others), and the rate and manner of change into a vampire seems to be rather random, affecting different vampires in different ways. Perhaps this is because the external vampire mythology which governs the film lacks clarity: do crosses work, or don’t they? If not then how come garlic works? Although Banke has included a plot device to be able to explain away any deviations from traditional vampire stories, the lack of clear rules feels unsatisfying.
The pacing of Frostbite is a bit of a let down — it doesn’t quite work. It doesn’t work because in swapping between long scenes of dreary conversations within three main plot areas (Saga at school and a party, Annika at work and the two police officers) the tension gets lost. In the first half of the film there’s too little action, in between too many scenes of urbanity, to get the true sense of impending doom that Frostbite needs to make it really work as a scary film.
The idea of the polar winter also felt underused to me. Although the dark and the shadows maintain a sense of creepiness and mystery, and help make Frostbite look beautiful (which it does), it also removes any reference points for the viewer and in effect creates a feeling of timelessness which isn’t necessarily a good thing. In standard vampire movies we’re used to seeing the approaching dusk as an indicator that things are about to get nasty, the pitch black and the high shot of the moon shows you’re around the middle of the film, and the first glimmers of light on the horizon indicate there’s about to be a big showdown. While I applaud the idea of subverting this, the lack of any time indicators or any clear story arc (along with the excessively long discussions about Def Leppard, or the whereabouts of a blue food mixer) made the film seem very long, when in fact it’s not. The action seems to take place over one day and one very long night. The audience never really gets the chance to come to terms with the idea that this is what it’s going to be like for the next month, and to me that seems like a waste.
Many of the opening shots of the city, and the strangely beautiful and evocative score, remind me of the first two Batman films, and the dark and absurd sense of humour of Frostbite is reminiscent of Lars Von Trier’s strange haunted hospital series, The Kingdom. The director has said he thinks of it along the lines of An American Werewolf in London, but to me it just feels different.
To say it’s a break from the norm is not to say it’s better than the norm, and I hesitate to whole heartedly recommend this film. I think a lot of people might find it disappointing, but I can’t help but feel there’s something very likeable about Frostbite’s strange mix of the shocking, the beautiful and the boring.
This was a cinema screening so picture, sound and extras will not be rated.