July 9, 2019 Blood Paradise (Movie Review)
You could say that being a best-selling writer is its own form of misery, as is evidenced in the new English-language Swedish Horror-Comedy Blood Paradise. Artsploitation Films deliver this sharp, ironic and murderous good time to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.
Best-selling author Robin Richards (Andréa Winter: A Little Bit of Bad short 2014, Dreamer short 2016) might have once been at the top of her game, but many consider her most recent novel, “Return to Blood Paradise,” to be a flop. Admittedly looking to boost her own financial intake, her agent Lilo (Martina Novak) wants to send Robin on a trip to Sweden to get back to basics in hopes of reigniting her client’s literary fire. One problem: Robin’s boytoy Ted (Director Patrick von Barkenberg) initially opts out of the trip in order to stay home and practice getting in touch with his inner-dragon.
Choosing to soldier onward alone, the sophisticated and chic Robin arrives to a remote train station in the Swedish countryside and encounters her driver for the remainder of the trip, the highly-disorganized Hans (Christer Cavallius), an awkward super-fan. They get off to a rocky start and then, during their tense journey into the woods, a kindly local (Jakob Brunnström Hedström) offers Robin the middle-finger, which seems an ominous portent of the future.
But it gets worse! The owner of the farm, Rolf (Rolf Brunnström: Dreamer short 2016), is quick to inform Robin that his wife Linda (Linda Dahlin) has passed and is buried in the garden. There’s also the perplexing presence of his bizarre, mute sister (Ingrid Hedström), who silently roams the grounds with an antique doll carriage at her side. Perhaps worst of all, though the property itself is beautiful, it is entirely devoid of the luxuries that Robin has become accustomed to: the shower is a watering can on a string, the bathroom an outhouse, and absolutely forget a cell phone signal.
Only into her second day in the country, Robin’s fashionable hackles are already raised. Rolf is skulking about the grounds in such a way that arouses her suspicions, someone seems to be following her, and there’s that super weird scarecrow in the field. Worse yet, yesterday Ted had a change of heart and texted to say he’d be arriving in Sweden today but he’s a no-show. Instead, Hans is back for more quality time with his favorite author, and Robin is quickly considering a mad-dash back to the safety of the city.
When the awkwardness suddenly turns murderous, can the author survive to draft her next best-seller or is she doomed to never write again? Clocking in at 82 minutes, Blood Paradise is the feature-length debut of talented Director Patrick von Barkenberg ([Sun]Dust short 2009, Dreamer short 2016) , and was written by von Barkenberg with lead actress Winter. The film also features the acting talents of Ellinor Berglund, Lars Brunnström, and animal co-stars Greta the chicken, Simon the tortoise, and Bauer the dog.
It’s not so simple to summarize an idiosyncratic experience like Blood Paradise in words on a page, but potential viewers should understand that this is a slow burn that contains elements of Slasher Horror, ironic comedy, several mysteries, and one truly phenomenal lead actress. In fact, this bespelling, multi-talented woman is the Swedish Electropop musician Baby Yaga, who also co-wrote the screenplay, composed the beautifully haunting score, and produced the film. And the farm where this entire adventure is set? Well, that’s Winter’s family home in Sweden.
Perpetually dressed for her posh (and somewhat kinky) city life, Winter’s Robin is a diva sent to recoup in the countryside. Intelligent, bold, and fashionable at all times, Winter’s delivers a character who is one of the glitterati and yet likable; a woman who will rock red leather pants on a farm, and who is not afraid to take off her heels and help carry furniture. She’s sassy, she’s sexy, and for this we understand her allure and how a simple man such as Hans could become so taken with her. Winter’s shines in the role, enchanting the audience as she moves through the landscape with a cat-like grace no matter how dire the circumstances.
As the aforementioned Hans, Cavallius captures the perfect blend of social awkwardness, starstruck wonderment, and something that is almost (but not quite) off-putting. He toes the line beautifully between being an amusing super-fan who is simply a bit too zealous and being entirely creepy. In fact, because Cavallius never feels entirely like a stalker, we’re never exactly sure if we should suspect his character or not—which provides his role with great strength and paves the way for his co-star Brunnström.
As a contrast, Rolf Brunnström’s Rolf is a different kind of conundrum: he initially appears a quiet widower, a bit of a curious loner who has lost himself in his farm to avoid facing the loss of his wife. Though, as his character receives further screen-time, we begin to wonder if his kindly farmer act is merely a facade for something much more sinister. The ability to deliver these nuances is a compliment to Brunnström’s acting talents and his performance provides the film an additional weight.
In the role of Ted, Director von Barkenberg is ridiculous enough to be quite amusing, adding some perfectly-timed comedic elements his film. He’s nowhere near as likable as his lover, but that is the point, and he injects some entertaining moments into his performance. Also, not to be forgotten, Berglund, as Elsa, is wonderfully witty, and her perfectly-timed, sudden ability to speak English will make viewers laugh out loud.
With all of this said, there is an interesting choice made to forgo the usage of subtitles, despite the film having several Swedish language-only scenes. Xenoglossophobes, fear not! The ability to speak Swedish is not required: you will easily understand the gist of these scenes. In fact, Blood Paradise is an artfully-crafted film that transcends language barriers to provide a pleasurable viewing experience. And that ending sequence with the flock of sheep? A brilliant work of art to cap it all off!
In the most basic sense, there are some similarities between Blood Paradise and the 2019 Finnish film Tuftland, both capitalizing on the theme of truly creepy country folk. However, plot-wise, the two films greatly diverge. This selection crafts a tale full of ironically witty moments and sharp juxtapositions, an enchanting lead actress and a motley cast of personalities. A brilliant debut for the team of von Barkenberg and Winter, Cryptic Rock cannot wait to see what they will dream up next! For this, we give Blood Paradise 4.5 of 5 stars.