Good Vampire Films: Frostbite
It’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve attempted one of these and that’s purely down to how many desperate vampire films I’ve seen. I know that vampires and vampire lore has been plundered throughout the decades, and that each new attempt has to give the mythology a modern twist, but is there anything out there more pathetic than the current romantic vampire idea propagated so eagerly by the likes of Twilight and True Blood? It’s an astonishingly inept take on the monster- a Vampire is a predator that feeds on human blood. He is not some sort of English fantasy figure. Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to root around in the genre to try to find some examples that are worth looking at. This time, it’s the mostly unheralded Swedish 2007 film Frostbite.
Frostbite isn’t exactly a horror film. There is the odd horror element to it, but really it’s a comedy. It’s also very funny. As with the utterly abysmal Orangutan of Doom candidate 30 Days of Night, the events of Frostbite occur in a place that isn’t going to see the sun for a month. In this case Lapland. Saga (Grete Havnesköld) and her mother Annika (Petra Nielsen) have moved because Annika has a new job working for genius geneticist Beckert (Carl-Åke Eriksson). Beckert appears to be developing a wonder drug which is then stolen by Jonas Karlström’s Sebastian. The drug is distributed at a party filled with horny teenagers that Annika is attending. Next thing you know, it’s transformed everyone that’s taken it into a vampire, while Annika strives to uncover Beckert’s secret. Saga, in the meantime is having to fend off the vampiric attention of Emma Åberg’s Vega, while the local cops are coming to terms with what to do with Sebastian.
This is a frequently hilarious film. I know that sounds completely nuts, given that it is ostensibly a vampire movie, but here the writers Daniel Ojanlatva and Pidde Andersson went for every vampire related comic idea that they could, and director Anders Banke really plays up the humour at every opportunity. There are many set pieces that are flat-out hilarious, including the police putting on their armour to deal with Sebastian, the disastrous dinner party while Sebastian is turning, and the confrontation between Vega and Saga. The comedy here comes from sight gags (shooting Sebastian in the head with a tear gas cartridge is flat out hilarious), comic situations (tripping out and talking to a dog) and some genuinely witty dialogue. Of the latter, I particularly like the exchange when Saga makes a cross to deal with Vega, only to be told she’s holding it the wrong way round, almost as much as I like the policeman’s “you use tear gas to deal with a pet killer? What do you use for a murderer, anti-aircraft guns?” As I say, the humour in this film is effective.
The acting, actually, is also pretty good. The female leads are both adorable and capable and Beckert is brilliantly played as a Mad Doctor by Eriksson. However, the real plaudits go to Karlström, who’s portrayal of useless junky douchebag Sebastian is bang on the money. The look of horror on his face when he eats his girlfriend’s pet rabbit is priceless, and he’s got a neat line in dumbfounded confusion that he gets to use whenever he has to swap dialogue with a dog. Incidentally, I see the dog was originally meant to be a vampire dog, but it’s never really followed through with, and there was also meant to be a Vampire plant.
The thing is, though, that Frostbite is billed as Horror-comedy, and it just isn’t scary. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it uses “predator vision” at the beginning to signify a vampire stalking it’s prey. I’m sorry to say this, but I really want this device retired, it’s looking tired, inept, and creatively bankrupt. Secondly, although it is Lapland and pitch black all the time, the film primarily takes place inside clean, well lit environments. There’s no attempt made to utilise the location for fear. It actually makes no sense at all to set it above the Arctic Circle- all the events of this film could quite easily take place at night. Finally, and this is the big no-no for Horror in Frostbite, it’s plagued with useless CGI. I’m now of the opinion that if I had the power to do so, I would ban CGI from Vampire films. The blood effects are well done, but the transformation into a vampire and the vampire effects in general are all done with CGI and are all terrible. Sebastian’s face in the mirror leaping to mind. Still, it’s almost de rigueur nowadays for me to whinge about lacklustre CGI in a horror film, so is to be expected.
Overall, I haven’t enjoyed a Vampire film as much as Frostbite in a hell of a long time. This is a smart, gory and frequently hilarious take on the Vampire myth. It absolutely thrashes 30 Days of Night, and it’s inevitably going to be remade within the next few years. Interestingly, Frostbite is the first ever Swedish Vampire film, and so can be thanked for kick starting them- and given that Sweden followed this good film with a truly great one, that’s not to bad a claim. All in all, I give Frostbite a well deserved 3 Changs out of 4. Recommended.
I’m still trawling through Vampire films, so when I find another good one, I’ll return to this series. There’s just so much shit out there though.