Between them, co-writers Andréa Winter and Patrick von Barkenberg do almost everything on this low-budget Swedish horror movie. Winter stars, with von Barkenberg in a significant supporting role, and also produces, composes, and cops an ‘additional editor’ credit, while von Barkenberg directs and shares with Winter location, set design and costume chores. It has a visual kinship with Midsommar – and the benefit of being filmed in actual Sweden – in that its horrors take place in Swedish summer sunlight, in a rural area which is at once the sort of goon-infested backwater seen in dozens of American Wrong Turn movies and almost comically polite and well-mannered. There are eccentric, jokey touches throughout but it’s told with a mostly straight face that does tend to reduce the whole thing to a by-the-numbers down-home horror … defaulting in the last act to one of my least favourite sub-genres, as an independent woman is taped to a chair and ranted at (or mutilated) by a maniacal clod.
Portentously divided into chapters titled ‘The Writer’, ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Sister’, ‘The Murder’, etc, the film follows former best-seller Robin Richards (Winter), who writes bondage-themed thrillers which have grown stale … and also can’t live out her fladge fantasies because her dim boyfriend Ted (von Barkenberg) gets a panic attack when stuck in his gimp suit. Her agent books her a Swedish farm holiday, so she can refresh her creativity – and she’s met in the middle of nowhere by a jittery uberfan (Chester Cavallius) who drives her to the primitive homstead of dour Farmer Rolf (Rolf Brunnström), which features no indoor toilet/shower facilities, plenty of chicken beheading, zero mobile reception (and cut-off landlines), a gurning sister (Ingrid Hedström) and a shirtless adult son (Jakob Brunnström Hedström) who points a hunting rifle at her but seems to do no actual work. For a while, Robin struggles – deleting the few words she writes – but eventually all the sinister stuff and escapades like having her clothes stolen while she’s skinny-dipping in the lake do give her inspiration … only no sooner has she started on the book, than the psycho stuff really kicks in (including a Psycho transvestite/schizo act) and we get into lengthy, squirmy torments straight out of the little-missed torture films that were all the rage ten years ago.
At least as interested in being uncomfortable as in its straight-on horrors, Blood Paradise mostly manages with restraint – though Cavallius’ outright clowning tips things into farce. It has a cool, pleasing look and Winter shows a commanding presence.