This opens wittily with a paraphrase of Edward Van Sloan’s speech to the audience at the beginning of Frankenstein (1931) – as does another FrightFest selection, Here Comes Hell, funnily enough – delivered by a face-painted elderly fellow … and uses several more distancing effects, including elaborate chapter title cards and back-and-forth-in-time games, to stress the theatricality of it all, foreshadowing the way the horrors are all staged for the benefit of the familiar if nebulous audience of rich internet sickos who have been supporting outfits like Finale’s Escapismus (or the Hostel franchise’s Elite Hunting) in movies like this since Cradle of Fear and My Little Eye.
Based on a novel by Steen Langstrup – who co-scripted with producer/director Soren Juul Petersen – this works best in the set-up scenes as two girls have to work a night shift in a Danish motorway service station on an evening when Denmark is playing unexpectedly in a football final and so custom is way down … with only a trickle of dead sinister types pitching up to create unease, and an escalating series of pranks (involving things like an air pump which seems to move when no one is looking) that put the women on edge. Agnes Berger (Anne Bergfeld), daughter of the boss, is on her last shift before moving on with her doctor boyfriend … while Belinda Andersen (Karin Michelsen) is likely to be stuck here, especially since her boyfriend is a useless, whining bully. Flash-forwards show us where they’ll end up once they’ve been snatched from the petrol station, and unfortunately that turns out to be a very familiar tied-to-a-chair-and-tortured scenario with a motormouth, obnoxious ringmaster (Mads Koudal/Damon Younger?) taunting the girls as he abuses them for the entertainment of the unseen audience … it’s all very well to make the horror film audience complicit in horrors, but this still begs the point that this particular cycle peaked ten years ago and extensive scenes of tied-up women being bludgeoned, cut, battered and insulted are either offensive, no fun at all or (for a tiny percent of the audience I don’t give a shit about) a turn-on.
The first half is well-played and judged, and the tensions between the women are interesting, but the second half is much more formulaic with a long torture session – and a climactic burst of fight-back action. There is one minor, interestingly cynical innovation in the outcome, which addresses something fudged a bit in most sicko-internet-subscriber movies, theorising that the amoral maestros of Escapismus don’t much care whether their own minions live or die or their victims die or escape since anything sufficiently violent will keep their customers slavering.