Imagine my surprise upon discovery that Frostbitten (Frostbiten), a solid horror flick from director Anders Banke, reigns as the first dedicated vampire film to come out of Sweden. Uncovering said info after viewing this slick, comedic bloodbath impressed me. Aside from a few classic genre sacrifices and a flimsy story, Sweden's colorfully cold stab at vampirism satisfies in humorously macabre fashion.
Frostbitten is an ambitious, sturdily crafted slice of horror cinema that follows a mother, Annika (Petra Nielsen), and her daughter, Saga (Grete Havanskold), as they move to a snow-laden town in northern Sweden. Annika has accepted a research position at a hospital there where the crew, led by the mysterious Dr. Beckert (Carl-ake Eriksson), focus on genetic studies. In this region where the two are to move, polar night takes effect which leaves the area in darkness for 30 days. When talking about a vampire film, this added atmospheric element of zero sunlight sounds like a compelling obstacle, even though it's unknown to what extent it will play. Don't get too intrigued, though. Disappointingly, this darkness remains nothing more than a static ingredient in the form of a dark blanket over the city.
During this blacked-out timeframe, one of the orderly doctors on duty at Annika's hospital, Sebastian, swipes a cluster of red capsules from Dr. Beckert's office. Whether he snagged them out of his own curiosity or as an essential party ingredient for his friend Vega, one of Saga's new friends memorably portrayed by Emma Aberg, is unknown. However, shortly after a colleague coaxes Sebastian into sampling one of these pills, he starts to feel a little ... odd. Sebastian starts to see things he normally doesn't see, such as talking dogs, while losing his taste for all of his normal foods. More importantly, he develops a deep hunger for something he can't put his finger on. Yet.
Sebastian's vampiric transformation, Annika's discovery behind Dr. Beckert's mysterious secrets, and the ravishing path of these red pills once they mistakenly fall in the wrong hands remain Frostbitten's main focal points. We hit a few bumps along the way with weak plot gaps and lackluster characterizations through its foundation, but the flick easily muscles past such originality problems with pure blood-soaked adrenaline. There's a lot of the raw essence of great vampire flicks ensnared in Frostbitten, mainly in the solid exchange between quirkily effective humor and tingling tension. It reminds me a lot in proportionality to James Gunn's "slug"-fest Slither, but it blends the elements of both laughs and jolts in a less belligerent fashion. This, actually, works quite well to its advantage.
But Frostbitten doesn't come out of the starting gate with inherent gravity. We're introduced to preceding events from World War II at the beginning of the film where a cluster of soldiers find refuge in an "abandoned" hut. Though this echo into the past provides somewhat important insight into the vampire's lineage, it latches a weight onto the pacing at the start that is very difficult to shake. We eventually thrust passed this lengthy stretch once the core present day narrative enters the picture, but it's a struggle.
It seems like a lot going on at once within a timeframe a bit over an hour and a half, but the film's visual acuity and editing style holds our focus without getting us too lost within its several twists and turns.
A lot of this gravitas also comes from cinematographer Chris Maris and his crisp eye for a fitting style for the material. Mixing blood, snow, and vampires between exterior and interior shots crafts a vividly lurid presence with striking blues and reds. Paired with these editing methods, this flick packs a strong surrealistic visual punch with constricted color usage.
Frostbitten is a limerick-style creature mystery with lush visualization, and solid within its core is a pseudo-realistic tie to genetics and vampirism. The ease of transformation from human to vampire through a small pill is a little hard to swallow; however, every other intricate element revolving around the ferocious fiends, whether we're talking aesthetics or behavior, is a top-notch achievement considering the freshness of the crew. Clear integration of numerous Hollywood influences wiggles in, both in stunts and overall stylistic presence. Sure, Frostbitten is a splash on the unoriginal side and predictable in delivery and story, but it's easy to sacrifice any search for innovation when a horror flick is as reliably and charmingly solid as this.
Frostbitten comes from Genius Entertainment in a standard keepcase presentation that peers out at you with a raging red eye accompanying a solid blue face. The same art carries over to the disc.
Frostbitten's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation looks quite stunning, actually. Though it's shot with a lot of night scenes, glaring snow, and ravishing colors, we're working with an attractively framed film spread out in a sharp DVD transfer. There's a wealth of darkness in the film, and the image keeps speed with respectable vigor. Color shades and detail solidity really pop, even in the usage of the film's sporadic CG work. Once or twice, the transfer gets a little darker than it should, especially in the initial war scenes. Outside of that, I was pretty darn satisfied with this visual treatment. It's a strong aesthetical film, and this image makes certain to preserve an array of its little treasures.
While it's not quite as impressive as its visual counterpart, the Swedish 5.1 Dolby audio treatment keeps us entertained with a strong level of dynamic sonic flavor. Though the LFE level doesn't see a whole lot of action in this film, the surround channels get plenty of work. Ambient sounds, such as cars whizzing by and echoing thumps in hospital settings, kept you immersed with richness. Vocal clarity sounded excellent, as well. Subtitles are available in English alone.
The extra material included on Frostbitten is standard fare, but it holds enough heart and interest to make the run through the gauntlet worth the work.
- Behind the Scenes Featurette -
At around 25 minutes, this nice piece touches on most of the production values covered in the film. From the special effects assembly to the casting choices, we run the standard gauntlet of points to be covered. It's great to hear how adamant the key actors and the filmmakers are about this vampire film, though.
- Deleted Scenes -
Several clips left on the cutting room floor are included. In short, these are more elaborative tidbits that really don't have much place in the pacing or the tone of the film.
Also included is a safe Theatrical Trailer ready for viewing before the film, as well as a few lukewarm Bloopers.
If you're on the search for vampire flicks with panache and humor, then Frostbitten is right up your alley. Lack of both innovation and blatant scares aside, you'll have a bloody good time with this. Taking the fact that its Sweden's first dedicated vampire flick and its fantastic visuals into consideration, Frostbitten comes strongly Recommended.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site