Probably the closest thing yet to an art-house version of Friday the 13th, Bodom playfully subverts genre tropes while making the most of a talented young cast and some beautiful visual work.
The 1960 Lake Bodom murders, where three campers were brutally slaughtered by an unknown assailant, are a very real mainstay of Finnish culture, and here four youngsters travel to the very same location in an attempt to try and piece together exactly what happened. Naturally, it isn’t long before things go south, and they have to contend with a savage killer hunting them down.
It’s a familiar set-up, sure, but the real-life hook is a nice touch, and writer-director Taneli Mustonen wastes little time on stodgy build-up; this is tense from mere minutes in, while introducing a quartet of characters far away from the hormonal horndogs who have plagued the genre for literally decades.
That’s what really makes Bodom such a treat; it eagerly subverts conventions wherever it can. There’s no cabin for one, the character banter and development is genuinely thoughtful for the most part, and there are a number of expectation-defying plot twists simply too delicious to even hint at.
It’s also an incredibly well put together film from a technical standpoint; cinematography is especially gorgeous, while a synth score fits the mood perfectly, even if it’s kind of a pat pre-requisite for the genre by this point. Though presumably cobbled together for a fairly low budget, this has a slick, professional sheen throughout that compliments the thoroughly subversive tone.
There are certainly minor quibbles, though, specifically the abundance of a few moldy genre cliches – some low-effort fake-out scares and the inevitable clumsy character who falls over and hurts their leg – while the ending also falls a little flat because it’s simply more familiar than the rest of the movie.
That said, the lean run-time, abundance of black comedy, skilled cast and sharp direction make it a mostly concise, muscular little horror flick that could do solid business on Netflix.
Bodom premieres at the London Film Festival on October 14th