[review by JA Kerswell]
BLÖDAREN is a near amateurish, but endearingly quirky Swedish slasher from the subgenre's Golden Age - that, according to rumours at the time, nearly starred Gene Simmons of KISS as the killer! A female musical group - called Rock Cats - find themselves stranded in an abandoned village with only an escaped lunatic called The Bleeder for company. Mayhem, spandex, big hair and a stray Rubix Cube ensue. Potentially unreleasable outside of Sweden due to its shamelessly identikit score not so much riffing but essentially note-for-note copying John Carpenter's music from HALLOWEEN (1978). Still, this vies as one of the first shot-on-video slashers and certainly the first slasher movie from Sweden.
Before we are introduced to Rock Cats, a young couple of hikers stumble across a dilapidated mansion and decide to explore it. But not before the boy tells his girlfriend the history of the house, saying that 25 years ago a woman tried to drown her son in the nearby lake (every Swedish slasher has to have a lake it seems!) because of his incurable blood condition. The woman drowned, but the boy's father saved him only to find he was now brain-damaged due to lack of oxygen. Subsequently, the father sent his son to an asylum and abandoned the sprawling complex. Fast forwarding to 1983, it should come as no great surprise to anyone who has ever seen a slasher movie that the son is now grown and has come home - and delights in deadly childlike games with anyone who crosses the threshold of his old home.
As the movie tells us in economic detail: '3 months later ... somewhere in Sweden', Rock Cats play their last song at a sparsely attended outdoors festival. Before leaving a gaggle of enthusiastic teenage boys tell them: "You girls better come back or we'll beat you up!". Laughing this off, the band set off in their tour wagon only to break down in the middle of nowhere. Heading for the nearest help they stumble across the abandoned village with its network of derelict buildings and lodges. Inevitably they split up and fall into the grasp of the killer - whose eyes bleed as he chases them through the forest. Meanwhile, a forest ranger in tight stonewash jeans and a plaited rat-tail down his back (hey, it is 1983) happens to be nearby and learns that The Bleeder has escaped and may be heading home. Can Rock Cats and Curt Smith from Tears for Fears join up in time to save themselves from the sanguine madman?
Pre-empting the later slasher rock-girls-vs-a-killer DEAD GIRLS (1990), BLÖDAREN certainly isn't going to be for everyone. It almost has the feel of a slasher film a group of friends would make if they got hold of a video camera one endless golden 80s summer. However, what it lacks in polish it makes up with a sense of infectious fun - if you don't take it too seriously. The people behind this seem conflicted as to whether they were making a comedy or wanted to ape the North American slasher with a straight face. Its mostly the latter (although in a coda some of the cast do the Addams Family theme-tune to the camera!), as the film takes itself as seriously as it can given the circumstances - and is blessed with a good number of chase scenes. In fact, every member of Rock Cats gets a cardio workout during the running time. However, gorehounds will be sorely disappointed as almost all kills are off-screen or are bloodless. There's precious little nudity, too - with the band point-blank refusing to disrobe despite the director allegedly asking them to.
However, it is hard to take the killer seriously - who looks like a cross between Anthropophagus (from Joe D'Mato's 1980 film of the same name) and Andrew Garth from HELL NIGHT (1981) - as he follows Rock Cats unseen through the forest pushing a pram (!). He also always waggles his tongue suggestively anytime he jumps into view. The Rock Cats themselves are a good deal of fun with their high heels, high hair and neon leopard skin outfits - and look like they are on the way to audition for that other notorious Swedish rock slasher BLOOD TRACKS (1985). As they traipse through the forest with their instruments, they chat inanely with one regalling the others with a tale of how her uncle was chased up a tree by a moose - with another suggesting farting loudly is the best way to escape an angry moose! And when they poke around the dilapidated mansion one nonchalantly says: "A tiled stove in the bathroom, talk about luxury!" Unsurprisingly, most of the dialogue was ad-libbed. If the movie couldn't be any more of its time, the killer tries to take a bite out of a Rubik's Cube and one of the group tries to blind him with her Polaroid camera's flash.
And then there's that score. If you played a drinking game and took a shot every time the famous sting from John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN was recreated you'd be under the table before the halfway mark. But it's not just the sting, every familiar bit of music from that film is rehashed. John Carpenter would be spinning in his grave (if he was dead).
In the case of art imitating life, most of the cast were actually semi-famous Swedish musicians. The Bleeder is played by Åke Eriksson, who was in the bands Attack and Wasa Express. Rock Cats were actually the band Revansch. Danne Stråhed, who plays the forest ranger still performs today and was the lead vocalist in dance band Wizex until 1996. Apparently, love was in the air on the shoot as Eriksson and one of Revansch married shortly after.
A script for BLÖDAREN was around since 1981 and it appears it was made sometime in 1982 before being released in Sweden in 1983 - where it was marketed as a "rock thriller" without much financial success. It was directed by Hans Hatwig, a German who had moved from Germany to Sweden in the late 1960s (and has claimed Hitler's ashes are somewhere in the country!). He had a varied publishing career that ran from porn to comedy magazines - but made the most impact with youth magazines in the 1970s and 1980s that increasingly promoted hard rock music. He used his Okej magazine to drum up interest in this film - and allegedly started the rumour that it was to star Gene Simmons from KISS as the killer. There is even a photo of Simmons (or someone dressed up to look like him) biting into a promotional poster for the film! However, the magazine later admitted they were only using his Swedish doppelganger (Åke Eriksson). Ever eclectic, Hatwig's only other film as a director was the children's sci-fi GRÖNA GUBBAR FRAN Y.R (1986) about aliens crash landing near a summer camp.
BLÖDAREN mainly shot on the Ryfors estate in Mullsjö municipality, which had largely fallen into ruin (although has been fully restored and is now a museum). It was owned by eccentric billionaire John-Henry Sager, with whom the director had a close relationship and allowed him full access. Apparently, there were some black magic connections to the area - which might have given the film an edge if it wasn't all so silly (although the skull in the pram is a creepy image).
Perhaps more a curio for completists like myself, ultimately BLÖDAREN has a low-budget charm that - despite the almost universally bad reviews - makes it worth seeing for the slasher hardy.
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female: 4 / male: 1
2) Female killed (method unseen)
3) Female killed (method unseen)
4) Female suffocated
5) Female strangled