Evil Rising DVD review
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An unlikely locale for horror raise some pretty creepy questions..
The year is 1595, the 25-year war between Sweden and Russia has come to an end and new borders are being marked between Finland and Russia. Two brothers are part of a crew amending map lines who stumble across an unregistered village, deciding the only solution will be to run the new border straight through the village. On the outskirts of this village in swamped woodland a sauna is found, leading to some unnerving events and a bloody finale...
First released in 2008, Evil Rising is the second feature from Finnish director A. J. Annila (Jade Warrior) exploring murder, revenge, sin and redemption through our sibling leads. Knut and Erik couldn't be more different - one is sympathetic and the other is brutally ruthless, having already slain 74 victims, disappointedly recognising: "peace takes away entitlement to murderous acts". The film begins with a gruesome scene showing older bro for what he really is, accompanied by amplified stabbing noises, a map route marked in blood and a river running red.
There's plenty of talk of 'Ruskies', hints at the importance of our killer's glasses and a bizarre but strangely captivating fairytale told about "filth" that ultimately describes it as "proof two things have touched one another". Folks seem to keep clawing their eyes out and we're told no-one has dared to leave the village or die with merely one child residing there - the last to be born. With some amazingly dated insults thrown around ("Handmaiden to the huskies") and plenty of references to the need to "cleanse sins", the main question we're left pondering is "Who does the sauna belong to?"
Rather than provide answers, Evil Rising simply poses a mounting number of questions.
Tension is built through the unexplained, with repeat appearances from a girl in a white dress and shots of a hut full of villagers who've all dug their eyes out, and some who've even shredded their tongues. There are early warnings that all is not well when we're told the villagers first found the village abandoned and monks' robes scattered all around. Eerie shots, sexual-sounding noises, indecipherable whispers and mysterious objects forced into mouths all follow as things go from ominous to downright dodgy.
We're first introduced to the sauna through subtle references to “sauna flowers” before we finally see a very modern-looking part-flooded cement sauna that looks more like an over-sized pill box. Once this mysterious, somewhat curious structure is discovered there's plenty more talk of washing away sins and cultural uses of saunas: “[the] Finns like to bathe their newborns in saunas and wash away the past of the dead”. One of the film's unintentionally funniest scenes comes courtesy of the once titular sauna (Evil Rising's original and more apt title). As our anti-hero has an overly-dramatised fight with the water the sauna sits in; accompanied by exaggerated swishing sounds, he amusingly cries "Bring it on then - Erik Spare is here!" before later arrogantly announcing: "My life can buy you time - that's one hell of a deal".
Set in spectacularly bleak wintry woodland landscapes with an epic soundtrack of stirring classical orchestration, Evil Rising hints at brotherly buggery with Gary Oldman lookalike Erik taking a keen interest in little bro, despite having a family awaiting his return. Aside from a strangely-shot interlude between entering the sauna and seeing inside, the film certainly boasts beautiful cinematography and is atmospheric from the outset.
The sinister sole child in the village links back to the girl Erik cruelly abused and locked in a cellar at the start, potentially being the sole explanation for much of the film's strange happenings and face-gouging finale. Without digging for meaning and inventing plot twists, it's never clear what actually happens, resulting in the continuous build-up of intrigue and suspense to leave viewers with plenty of unanswered questions: Why will walking naked through the village help? Where have the other villagers gone?
Why can't the lone child wipe her mouth?... Repeat bloodied shots of the river neatly wrap up Evil Rising, leaving viewers spectacularly in the dark but captivated nonetheless.
Director: A. J. Annila
Writer: Iiro Küttner
DVD Release Date: July 25 2011
Running Time: 84 mins
Starring: Ville Virtanen, Tommi Eronen
Evil Rising is out now.
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