If karma exists, camping in the exactly same place where three teenagers were stabbed to death fifty years ago doesn’t seem a good idea. However, the tattooed Elias and the nerdy Atte have decided to tempt fate and set off on a trip to Lake Bodom: the tranquil and beautiful location of that brutal slaughter occurred in June 1960. Not only that, but they also want to re-enact the crime for a photography project, a purpose unrevealed to the two persuaded female schoolmates who join them: Ida and Nora.

Finnish filmmaker Taneli Mustonen takes a real unsolved case as the starting point for his notable horror film debut. Three adolescents were murdered and a fourth left injured while camping in a forest area near the city of Espoo in Finland. Although several suspects were investigated, including an alleged KGB agent and the survivor himself, no one was found guilty or convicted. The original crime is just an excuse to build a movie far from another based-on-actual-events. Lake Bodom pays homage to many 80’s horror classics with Friday the 13th as the principal one but is devoted to the 90 and 00’s teen slash movies.

In 1996, the celebrated Wes Craven’s Scream summarised and parodied the rules for surviving a horror movie. As you may remember: no sex, neither drinks nor drugs and never say “I’ll be right back”. You will not. In the same way, Mustonen reviews all the motives why one can kill in a teen slasher: revenge, bullying, crime of passion or the morbid desire to preserve and repeat history.  A succession of complex plot twists that makes the film work like a nesting doll.

As the night goes by, tensions arise and the attitudes of the quartet change to modify not just their relationships but also our vision of them. That’s when the supposed innocent final girls will be closer to the reinterpretation of the femme fatale served in films like Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker or Heavenly Creatures. But that’s not all. That’s just the beginning of the game. The round will be full of red herrings and blood will run again. Rather than the acting, the most remarkable aspect is the impressive Daniel Lindholm’s cinematography, including bird’s-eye view over the cities and natural landscapes of Finland. Every scene is taken with an unusual exquisiteness for a horror movie. Plenty of shots could even be compared to a hyperrealist paint.

Mustonen’s elegant and twisted approach marks a difference with the last Bodom’s adaptation. Just three years ago, the Hungarian filmmakers Gergö Elekes and József Gallai presented a kind of Blair Witch Project where two media students obsessed with the 1960’s  murder launch a journalistic investigation. Found footage and, again, an exploration of the limits between documentary and fiction.

CategoriesFeatures Issue 18