Saturday, September 06, 2008


Antti-Jussi Annila | 2008 | 83 mins | Finland

This historical epic cum existential nightmare is a perfect horror film for people who don't like horror films. Two Finnish brothers are charged with charting a new border between Sweden and Russia at the end of a long war. The year is 1595, and the northern swamps of then-nonexistent Finland provide a harsh and unforgiving backdrop for the tale.

The two brothers (one hardened by years of war, the other still naïve and hopeful) are haunted on their journey by an unnecessary act of cruelty they participated in before the beginning of their journey. When they arrive in a strange, near-childless village in the middle of the swamp, the Finns and Russians are all pulled into the orbit of the ominous, ancient sauna that looms in the murky waters on the edge of the gloomy outpost.

Building an oppressive atmosphere and dark, foreboding tone for the first half of the film, Sauna does provide some awesome payoff for the true horror fans toward the end, but truly this is a film for people who enjoy suspense, tension, and Tarkovski-esque slow pacing. Plus, bleak swampland is shot gorgeously and the actors are great.

Sauna screens again at 9:15am on Thursday September 11th. Check here for details.


Jeff said...

The 'some awesome payoff' is about a minute of payoff (though it IS awesome). Don't go trying to trick people into thinking it's a horror film after you already told them it's not. :P

katarina said...

Yeah, it's really not. The "Tarkovsky-esque pacing" point is the nugget to take away from this review.

But seriously, it's great. Demarcating new borders in a swamp? Ancient proto-sauna? Beleaguered and haunted Finnish brothers?

All hits and no misses.