I’m always one to have a go at foreign horror; some of the best stuff I’ve seen in the last few years has come out of lands outside of the U.S. I’ve enjoyed a wide range of terrors from around the world, be they German, French, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, Russian…I’ve even enjoyed some Hungarian horror, and I don’t even have to mention the creepy and deeply thought-provoking Asian horror films (although I just did); I’m sure there are many more I haven’t touched on, but that’s a result of my faulty memory more so than any lack of quality.
One facet we here at the ‘Corpse enjoy about foreign films is that the lion’s share of the time, the horror flicks that come from abroad are indie films, through-and-through, and we’re of the opinion that the true heart of horror lies with the independent writers, directors, and producers that pull out all the stops to realize a vision.
Which brings me to Rage: Midsummer’s Eve, first feature of writer/director Tii Ricks. Made and set in Finland, the flick brings some uniquely Finnish elements to the horror table.
An American, Hannah, and her two British friends, Jenni and Aron, are studying abroad in Finland. Through the course of their partying, they meet up with a couple of resident citizens their own age; Jussi, who apparently has a lot of money and connections, and Kimi, who is a level-headed and loyal friend.
After partying with this duo, the five agree to spend “Midsummer’s Eve” (a three-day weekend holiday celebrated in that part of the world on the Summer Solstice) at Jussi’s summer home, located very near the Arctic Circle. This will allow them to experience a time when the sun never sets for their celebration, and Hannah and her friends jump at the chance for such an experience. After acquiring copious amounts of beer, the quintet sets off; some time into the lengthy trip, however, the first signs of something odd begin to occur, with homes and vehicles on the way in seeming abandoned and deserted. Undaunted (after all, Jussi says, he hasn’t been up here in a long while), the group finally reaches the rather posh summer home with high anticipation, although Jussi is beginning to show his true colors as a bit of a pompous ass. Still, Kimi offsets his friend’s arrogance with his aw shucks, all-around-great-guy attitude…until on the second day the car radio begins playing on its own while the party sits nearby. Aron investigates, and is…taken. By what or whom, it’s not revealed. This begins a game of cat-and-mouse as the remaining group must contend with something or someone in the isolated wilderness around them that is systematically hunting them down…and they learn that true darkness does not depend on whether or not the sun hangs in the sky.
Following a pretty standard slasher formula in terms of characters and situations, this film doesn’t have a lot of surprises in store for hardcore fans; however, the concept of the entire movie taking place in daylight, without reliance on shadow or the ambiance of the night to aid with the establishment of dread is a bold undertaking, especially for a first-timer. The script is one of those that’s very ambiguous, with no real reason being given for the events portrayed; is it a group of homeless psychopaths? A tribe of evolved Yeti? Some kind of ancient, local spiritual legend come to life? These are only a handful of possibilities that I came up with, and that was strictly from my imaginings; the story gives you nothing other than this is happening. Often, with a little more exposition (which usually means more cash) that can be enough; for my money, though, I would have preferred at least something more of a hint as to the whys and whats of the story. Still, as far as slashers go, this one does have some elements that make it stand above just another run-of-the-mill cheapie: the acting in many of the cases is definitely above the norm for a low-budgeter, and the camera work and shot set ups make the most use of the beautiful countryside, yet also take advantage of the claustrophobic atmosphere of being hunted through the woodland, perpetual sunlight creating a cavern of shifting shadow.
Also, although there’s not a lot of in-your-face gore (sorry, hounds), with most of the action taking place out-of-frame, the way Ricks stages these is well-done, making the most of her budget while building some pretty palpable tension and dread.
All in all, I can’t sit here in good conscience and recommend this one as a “must-see” new horror flick; other than the setting and the broad daylight action, there’s really nothing here that you haven’t seen before. That said, I will tell you that for a first-time film, Ricks shows some guts and some definite promise; the details that I’ve mentioned and the talent behind the camera that she demonstrates is certainly enough to make hers a name I’ll watch for in the future.
For all the two cents it’s worth,