Sunday, August 10, 2014


Marie is a withdrawn young woman who lives in a small fishing village in Jutland. She starts a job at the local fish processing plant where all the other locals work, gets through her first day with an ugly but brief initiation and continues on with her life, picking out the better looking boys in the plant, taking her wheelchair bound mother for walks in what always looks like frozen air, and learning more and more about her mother's condition which she has inherited: lycanthropy.

Yep, Marie is a werewolf to be, just like her mum who is not catatonic from a car accident but industrial strength sedation. As Marie notices fur growing on her torso she comes to understand the inevitability of her condition and resents her father's attempts to contain it. Meanwhile she shows up at the plant and goes out dancing and life is normal. One day she investigates a small ship in dry dock in the harbour and finds signs of a struggle including the inside surface of a trap door scratched as though by a wolf. But then the days go on with more filleting and processing. And more bullying.

There's the other thing. Everyone in the village seems to know about Marie's curse. As Marie herself finds out about it she begins to enjoy the power that the suspicion bestows and plays up to it, in the process discovering a kind of pleasurable liberty in it. This only scares the locals more and they begin to mobilse against her and her mother.

Through most of the social realism of the presentation I started to enjoy the approach immensely. Here was a story about a classic monster from the horror genre as a kind of soft and picturesque slice-of-life documentary. Marie and her mother might just as easily have cystic fibrosis. Just add contagion to it and you're there. What a wonderful allegory to make it physically monstrous. How strong an opportunity to show the suppression of women by making the curse matrilineal. For most of the screen time we seem to be going that way and staying there, subversion of the promised genre and in convinced pursuit of those possibilities. Meantime we get some fine naturalistic performances and a gallery of Scandinavian natural beauty to look at. Roll credits. Nuh uh!

In the final act someone remembered they were making a werewolf movie and started doing that with a wincingly predictable bloody finale. The problem even there is that the carnage itself is free of tension or even much blood. It all just happens but not in deadpan slice-of-life like the rest of the film but flat and unskilled as the rest of the film hasn't been. It reminded me of how when the mighty Ginger Snaps needs to do its horror duty it strengthens the entire piece by taking that seriously (and still manages a lot of brilliant dialogue about adolescence and femininity). It adapted. This film was made by people who were either unprepared to adapt or could only deliver a half arsed adaptation. Well, what a bloody pity!

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