Blödaren 1983 Review
aka The Bleeder
Directed by: Han Hatwig
Starring: Ake Eriksson, Sussi Ax, Eva Danielsson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Although American cinema was the key player during the slasher cycle’s heyday, many other countries also provided a considerable contribution to the fledgling category. Whilst Spain’s Bloody Moon and South Africa’s City of Blood would never rival the audience revenue achieved by their US genre compatriots, the popularity of titles such as Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine proved that the formula had truly become a global cash-cow for ambitious producers.
By 1984 almost everywhere where there was a buzzing cinematic market had churned out at least one attempt at imitating the success of Halloween and its brethren; and Blödaren was Sweden’s entry. Han’s Hatwig’s low-budget rarity was not only the first slasher flick to be released directly for the Swedish market; it was in fact the first horror film that the country had ever self-produced. As of yet it has not been made available for global audiences, which has allowed it to achieve something of an obscure cult status amongst category enthusiasts.
The plot focuses on a female pop group called The Rock Cats. Whilst touring across the country, their mini-bus breaks down on a secluded road, leaving them stranded in the wilderness. They head out on foot to find assistance and are relieved when they discover a seemingly abandoned mansion in the depths of the woodland. Unbeknownst to the hapless women, they are sharing the location with a recently escaped lunatic who has a facial disfigurement, which means that blood constantly streams from his eyes. Before long they are fighting for their lives as they are stalked and ruthlessly slaughtered by ‘The Bleeder’.
The first thing that struck me about Blödaren is that it is surprisingly well-financed for such a small-scale project. Slasher movies often fall prey to a lack of funding, but I have read that this was shot on video and it is really hard, in fact; it is almost impossible to tell from what we see on the screen. Unfortunately that’s pretty much the only real positive that I took down in my notepad and it soon becomes apparent exactly why this has never been subtitled for worldwide consumption.
The methodology of horror is fairly simple and it’s not something that you need to be a genius to figure out. Audiences check out the genre because they want to be engulfed in a temporary feeling of dread. Yeah sure, a bit of cheesiness or black humour doesn’t hurt, but generally people watch horror movies to be scared. Fear is by far the hardest mood to create cinematically and the stats back this up. Of the horror films that you have seen, how many have actually terrified you? How many have made you check under your bed when you are alone at night and the lights are low? Although as an entertainment medium cinema has successfully portrayed moments of pathos and intense drama, fear has seldom been conveyed accurately and it takes a master director to make a competent horror film. Whilst it is totally acceptable that not everyone has the ability to pull off the next Rosemary’s Baby, the problem with Blödaren is that it doesn’t even try. Not even a little bit.
What we are really missing here is any kind of a threatening antagonist. Watching ‘The Bleeder’ shuffle around the woodland pushing a pram is not a scary sight, and his bizarre gimmick of sticking out his tongue like a spoiled child before he commits each murder is laughable…and not in a good way. We are offered absolutely zero dramatic credibility from the cast and it’s shot with the flair of a TV soap, which means that there is literally no effort to energise the cinematography, framing, blocking or placement of the characters on the screen. The sound is awful too and is mostly filled with long drawn out high-pitched whining tones that end up making you want to headbutt the screen…aaaaaah!!!
Any chance of tension evaporates when we realise that the victims are excessively dumb and the plot offers nothing more than one character wandering off to find a missing friend and being confronted by the hilariously inept killer. The score is a total rip-off of Halloween’s notorious theme and you’ll most likely be reading the small print of the vodka label on the 2 litre bottle you had to drink rather than watching the screen.
Blödaren is something of a cult-classic in Sweden as it launched a market that has delivered titles such as the gory Death Academy, Camp Slaughter, Evil Ed, Drowning Ghost and Blood Tracks. Whilst it may be remembered as a novelty for being the first, it really shouldn’t be recognised for anything more. Funnily enough, I watched this before going to see The Place Beyond the Pines at the cinema. I felt that Derek Cianfrance’s opus was as close to being a perfectly put together picture as possible. It boasted rich well-acted characters, superb cinematography, perfect sound and editing and a story that kept us hooked throughout. Whilst it is unfair of course to compare something as mundane as Blödaren to a brilliant character study, I always believe that there is no excuse, no matter what the level, to not do the basics right. The truth of the matter is that there are shorts on YouTube, shot on not much more than an iPhone that offer better movie making professionalism than this turkey. I’m sorry, but it’s true. One for the trash can.
*I don’t speak Swedish by the way so thanks to the gorgeous Monica for watching the film with me and explaining everything. Spending an hour and twenty minutes in front of this in itself must’ve been hard enough. Thank you xx
Final Girl: √