★★★ out of ★★★★★
Vintage Eurohorror and backwoods psycho horror elements are both at play in this tale of a high-society author who goes to rural Sweden to get her creative juices flowing again.
Directed by Patrick von Barkenberg
If Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968) is your main frame of reference for Swedish horror, a new (mostly English language) entry from that country arrives with a decidedly more direct — and bloodier — approach than its enigmatic predecessor. Director Patrick von Barkenberg’s Blood Paradise takes the concept of backwoods hillbilly horror and transfers it to a remote farm in that Scandinavian nation with intriguing, if sometimes mixed, results.
Robin Richards (Andréa Winter, who cowrote the screenplay with von Barkenberg, and who also produced, scored, did set design and costume supervision, and more!) is a formerly best-selling author whose Return to Blood Paradise sequel to her successful novel Blood Paradise bombed. Her agent insists that Robin needs to take a trip to a farm in rural Sweden to break her slump and write a successful new book. Robin reluctantly goes, and is greeted at the local train station by a self-proclaimed number one fan, Hans Bubi (Christer Cavallius),who also happens to be her chauffeur during her stay. He’s a bit of an oddball and obviously smitten, but he turns out to be the least of her worries oh her trip.
Her lodging is in the home of Farmer Rolf (Rolf Brunnström), who just happens to be a psychotic killer who dresses in his deceased wife’s bridal gown. He has a sister (Ingrid Hedström) who has her own psychological issues, as well.
Winter is terrific as the high-living, fashionable author who trudges through the countryside and fields in designer clothes and expensive, inappropriate shoes. She is especially solid in the first act, investing Robin with a snide, impatient personality through verbal and facial nuances. Once the author becomes a stranger in a strange land, though, things go the way of traditional horror routes, and what made Robin so naughtily engaging at first gets lost as she becomes a potential murder victim.
The rest of the cast isn’t quite up to Winter’s fine level, though. To be sure, it is a good thing that the supporting actors avoid going the over-the-top, scenery chewing route, but Brunnström’s Farmer Rolf may be one of the most mild-mannered psychos in cinema, Hedström as his sister isn’t far behind, and Cavallius’s Bubi stays pretty even-tempered whether he is leering at an undressing Robin or getting caught fondling Robin’s lingerie by his jealous wife Elsa (Ellinor Berglund, who shines in one of the more animated roles in the film).
Blood Paradise has an interesting feel to it. Though thoroughly modern, it has tinges of 1960s and 1970s Eurohorror, complete with eroticism and plenty of scenes with Winter in the buff. It seems that when Robin isn’t wearing high-fashion ensembles, she prefers to be naked in the water, whether it be a bathtub or the local lake. The horror scenes with Farmer Rolf give off more of a 1980s slasher vibe. It’s an interesting mix that works more often than not. The comic moments don’t always land as well as intended, but more often than not, they are amusing.
Blood Paradise screens at Windy City Horrorama, which runs April 26–28 at the Davis Theater in Chicago, Illinois. It is worth seeking out as it continues its film festival run.