MØRKELEG promo art

(1996, Denmark)

3 and a half stars  

directed by: Martin Schmidt
starring: Line Kruse, Christian Grønvall, Mari-Anne Jespersen, Karl Bille, Dick Kaysø, Peter Rygaard, Waage Sandø, Birthe Neumann, Robert Reinhold, Claus Strandberg, Lise Schrøder, Paul Hüttel

choice dialogue:

“This is the work of a maniac.”

- Has the Hacker widenend his net?

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

  A game of cat and mouse turns deadly in Danish slasher MØRKELEG.

The same year that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson reinvigorated interest in the slasher movie with SCREAM (1996), coincidentally another tricksy throwback to the subgenre's heyday was released in Denmark. MØRKELEG (aka BACKSTABBED) has four friends playing a murder-in-the-dark style game in a sprawling mansion, only to discover that someone isn’t treating it only as a game. Copious red herrings, a great location and some solid cat-and-mouse suspense mean that this relatively low-budget film delivers the required thrills and spills.

Tine (Line Kruse) borrows the keys from her estate agent mother to play the game Backstabbed in empty houses. Tonight she has invited three friends to play with her at a creepy old mansion and tells them that it is very popular in North America. The aim of the game appears to be the last one standing, as the participants use fake weapons to hunt each other down. However, the news is full of reports of a serial killer on the loose called the ‘hacker’, who has been terrorising Copenhagen.

Tine doesn’t know that her friend Aia (Rikke Louise Andersson) has been stabbed to death in the toilet of the bar where they have just been drinking. Plus a hobo with a knife who watched them at the bar has followed Tine and her friends to the house where the game is to take place. At first, it is all fun and larks until someone swaps the fake murder weapons for real ones. Who is the killer? Is it the creepy hobo lurking outside the kitchen window? Or is it one of Tine’s friends: Tim (Christian Grønvall), who has just returned from Copenhagen? Jonas (Karl Bille) who is suffering from debilitating headaches? Alexandra (Mari-Anne Jespersen), who claims to be psychic and see people’s auras? Perhaps the old lady who used to own the house whose body was never found? Could the killer have taken a trip from Copenhagen? Or could Tine herself be taking it all too seriously? And will anyone realise in time that someone wants to play murder-in-the-dark for real?

  Even the toilet in the bar isn't safe from the mad killer in MØRKELEG.

The film opens with a somewhat jarring juxtaposition of black-and-white photos of children and brief flashes of dead bodies. Whilst MØRKELEG doesn’t share the post-modernism and pop culture references of SCREAM it does have its own dark sense of humor. Most notably the way the killer expresses their split personality. The film clearly harkens back to the slasher movies of the early 1980s with the camera floating around the house from the killer’s point of view. There is also the old standby of the murderer arranging the bodies of the fallen around a table for the Final Girl to discover. As a whodunnit, it largely works and takes steps to confound expectations without really cheating. However, the killer is revealed around the halfway mark and the last half is largely a game of cat and mouse between them and the last player standing. No bad thing - with plenty of suspense eeked out of the situation.

MØRKELEG (which translates as PLAYING IN THE DARK) was the second collaboration between director Martin Schmidt and author Dennis Jürgensen. The year before they had worked on another slasher leaning project SIDSTE TIME (1995). Jürgensen reportedly reworked both scripts into successful novels at a later date. It was released to Danish screens with some middling success but was somewhat overshadowed by the likes of SCREAM and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997). To date, there have been no further theatrically released slashers in Denmark.



BODYCOUNT  bodycount!   female: 2 / male: 4

1) Female stabbed to death
      2) Male stabbed in the eye with a drill
      3) Male stabbed in the side of the head with a knife
      4) Male stabbed to death with a knife
      5) Female seen with her throat cut
      6) Male impaled on a statue



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