by Jason Coffman
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Let’s get this out of the way up front: Frostbitten has come to international attention due largely to the fact that it’s the first vampire film from Sweden. While that concept might automatically conjure up images of Bergman doing supernatural horror, Frostbitten is much more Scream than The Seventh Seal. Expectations might run high, but realistically, the best horror fans can hope for is something new to set this version of the well-worn vampire film apart from familiar genre efforts, and in that case, Frostbitten delivers.
Opening with a group of Nazi soldiers lost behind enemy lines in the last days of World War II, Frostbitten defies expectations right from the start. Freezing and disoriented, the soldiers take shelter in a boarded-up shack deep in a forest where they encounter something demonic and inexplicable. The action soon cuts to present day, where single mother Annika (Petra Nielsen) and her daughter, Saga (Grete Havnesksold), are moving to a new town north of the polar circle. Annika has taken a job at the town’s hospital in order to work with renowned geneticist Gerhard Beckert (Carl-Ake Eriksson). While Saga tries to get used to the months-long night and her new high school, Annika begins to suspect that something is seriously amiss at the hospital.
The real action starts when Saga’s new friend Vega (Emma T. Aberg) promises to bring some recreational drugs to an upcoming house party, but the only drugs her hospital intern dealer Sebastian (Jonas Karlstrsom) can find are the mysterious red capsules Dr. Beckert keeps in the lab, and Sebastian is wary of handing them over. After taking one himself, he starts to experience some very unusual side effects, just in time for a big dinner where he’s set to meet his girlfriend’s strictly religious parents for the first time—needless to say, their collection of crosses and taste for garlic don’t help matters. Meanwhile, Vega sneaks the pills out of Sebastian’s apartment and into the party, which becomes a completely different sort of get-together once the pills get dumped into the punch bowl.
One of the best things about Frostbitten is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. The scenes with Sebastian becoming a vampire are hilarious and unsettling at the same time, and the whole film has a slick 1980s-style horror sheen. It’s almost like a Swedish vampire version of Night of the Creeps: it’s a fun, weird film that manages to jam Nazi vampires, Swedish schoolgirls, and talking pug dogs into a cheerfully gruesome horror comedy. The special effects are mostly very good, the vampires are appropriately evil, the film beat the adaptation of 30 Days of Night to the polar-circle vampire punch by two years, and the ending rather optimistically paves the way for a sequel. Genre fans looking for more than an enjoyable tweaking of vampire-film expectations might come away a bit disappointed, but it’s undeniable that Frostbitten is highly entertaining on its own terms.
Jason Coffman is a freelance writer and film critic living in Chicago.
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