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John Allison [Film Festival 09.06.08] horror

One of the great joys of attending a film festival is that every so often you get to see a movie that comes out of nowhere and blows all other movies out of the water. Sauna for me is one of those movies. I had almost no expectations going in. I still have not seen Antti-Jussi Annila's first movie, Jade Warrior and I never got around to watching the trailer. All I was going with was the writeup on the TIFF site. I have to say this right now, Sauna is one of my favorite movies of the year and is will be in my list of top horror movies for a long time. It is not some simple slasher horror flick but is in fact a challenging thinking person's horror movie.

Sauna opens up to a brutal murder being performed by Finnish soldier Eerik Spore and being witnessed by his cartographer brother Knut. Eerik tells Knut that that the man went for an axe and that he had no choice. From there we flash back to the events that lead up to the murder. The Spore brothers have been sent by Sweden in the 16th century to meet up with the Russians in order to create the new border between Russia and Sweden after a 25 year war. From my limited knowledge and what was explained during the movie the war was caused due to a split in the church. On the way there they stay at a small cottage where Eerik discovers that the peasants actually follow the Russian religion and the father is murdered and the young daughter is locked in a cellar to starve.

After the brothers meet up with the Russians Eerik convinces everyone that they need to split a large swamp by placing the markers down as per his orders when in truth he simply wants to evade pursuers who are likely following him and his brother because of the murder. On their journey through the swamp Knut starts to see visions of what may or may not be the ghost of the girl who may or may not still be alive in the cellar. His brother is able to calm him down and convinces him not to run back to cellar to free the girl. It is around this point that we learn the Eerik has killed 73 people during the war and feels no remorse for it. After traveling a bit farther into the swamp the brothers and the Russians discover a small village with 73 older men, women and one child living. Next to the village is a small Sauna.

The rest of the movie takes place in the village and sauna where Annila provides us with more than enough atmosphere and scares to please any horror fan. He is also able to bring forth a dissertation on just how at some point past sins can build up to a point where the consequences can't help but harm the perpetrator and those around him. This is a dark deep movie that will surely divide audiences as it does not take the easy road to tell it's story. In the end though after some serious scares we are left with a dark nihilistic look at sin and consequences that is deeply compelling. If you are willing to be challenged by your horror movies I can't recommend Sauna enough.

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Anonymous (14 years ago) Reply

Great review. I've been looking forward to seeing this for a while. I'm glad to hear it's so good.


S (14 years ago) Reply

I do hope it's better than jade warrior, which was just ridiculously pretentious masturbation.
Thanks for the review.. it does sound and look rather good so far.


HW (14 years ago) Reply

This clip was a major failure. Stolen ideas from Tarkovski and Kubric. Boring, poorly written, affectedly directed. Not scary at all, just ludicrous.

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