Reviewer: Chris Haydon
Director: Taneli Mustonen
Starring: Tommi Korpela, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel & Nelly Hirst-Gee
Release Date: Currently Pending (UK)
Formally known as Lake Bodom, this Finnish addition to the BFI London Film Festival’s ever-popular Cult strand is likely the closest product audiences will get to an arthouse Friday the 13th. Such a shame then, that this frustratingly meandering film lacks any of the urgency and intrigue of the 1980s horror classic.
Bodom recalls a hideous true crime in 1960 in which a group of teenagers were brutally murdered whilst enjoying a camping trip. The unsolved case, which shocked an entire nation, has become a profound urban legend, continuing to terrify and bewilder some 50 years later. Upon the present day, a gaggle of adolescents descend on the lake, intent on recreating the murder scene and uncovering the truth of what really happened on that fateful night. However as darkness falls over the infamous landscape, it appears as though history might be about to repeat itself.
Like far too many modern horrors, Mustonen’s slasher suffers from abysmal writing. The script coordination, narrative subtext, and worst of all, dialogue, is endlessly mindless; lacking any finesse or awareness. Having the additional safety net of a true crime should have at least enabled Bodom to ring with some honesty, but everything here feels intensely fictitious. Contextually the film is so desperately trying to divert genre and cliché that it largely becomes a parody of itself.
Unlike far too many modern horrors however, the film actually benefits from a moderately reasonable selection of performances. Whilst they are massively stilted by inept characterisation, the physicality of their roles at least enables the film’s more breathlessly bitter set-pieces to bare weight. Mustonen quickly begins flinging around gore to an absurdly stupid level; undermining the brooding, nihilistic atmosphere which should take precedence, but his cast of Finnish B-listers sludge through with purpose. Hirst-Gee – in her first ‘major’ (term used lightly…) film role – plays Ida, a quaint and religious girl who later revels shades of wallowing darkness, making her the most realised and thought-provoking presence.
The aforementioned violence certain rings true of the European roots. Bodom is a savagely nasty and claret-drenched watch which will likely turn the stomachs of softer viewers, but seasoned horror fans or arthouse viewers will have seen this all before in infinitely smarter, denser titles.
Perhaps in more creative hands, this could have been a potent and morbidly frightful recollection of a sordid stain on modern Finnish history. Unfortunately for director Mustonen, his 2016 horror flick is an incoherent, unwarranted mess.