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15 Great Nordic Thrillers That Are Worth Your Time

14 February 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Laia Freixanet

best nordic thrillers

The increasing number of Scandinavian thriller and drama novels published over recent years and the amazing success of this literary genre has inspired many filmmakers. As such, many of the following films are book adaptations.

Northern countries are ideal locations to shoot authentic and chilling sets within the thriller genre. The main characteristic that underpins thriller films is a continuous emphasis on the solving of an enigma. However, despite the fact that the films all share this key characteristic, the genre is extensive and eclectic. For instance, thriller films can deal with crime, self-consciousness conflicts, terrorism, psychological issues, and so on, even though they regularly follow a rudimentary framework.

The following list aims to show a wide range of films that you may not have seen, as they are not necessarily internationally known except The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (thanks to the David Fincher remake).

 

15. Detour (2009)

Detour (2009)

Snarveien is a Norwegian film directed by Severin Eskeland. Lina (Marte Christensen) and Martin (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) are driving to Sweden to go to a wedding party. Suddenly, a policeman stops them because the main road is closed and they have to take a detour. They are stuck in the woods where they are being controlled by a psychopathic family who has put cameras all over, brazenly bringing them to a brutal situation.

While it is not an overwhelmingly impressive film, it has some agonizing moments and gory violence (for those who feel a certain fondness for the creepy side of the genre). It is the umpteenth retelling of a conventional horror story; still, the peaks and lulls keep the spectator’s attention.

 

14. Hidden (2009)

Hidden (2009)

Kai Koss (Kristoffer Joner) inherits his mother’s house, as she has recently passed away. The lead character is a traumatized person because of his mother’s atrocious mistreatment of him as a child. He plans to burn the house because he is having terrible nightmares and flashbacks to his childhood, but Sara (Cecile Mosli), a policewoman who knows him, doesn’t want him to. Kristopher Joner is also known for the film Next Door (2005), and in both he plays, indeed, a plausible role.

Directed by Pål Øie, Hidden is not precisely creative, considering that it follows the same framework as many other horror films. For those looking for something different, this film could disappoint you.

 

13. Easy Money (2010)

Easy Money (2010)

Snabba Cash is the first film of a trilogy based on the thriller novel by Jens Lapidus, and directed by Daniel Espinosa (a Swedish filmmaker with Latin-American roots). Mixing English, Spanish and Swedish, this Hollywood-looking action film has, in one way or another, an impersonal style.

The cliché-ridden production is the story of JW (Joel Kinnaman), a young boy who leads a dual life. While studying economics, he sells drugs in order to financially support his life. With a hazy past, JW is unable to maintain a relationship with the girl who loves him. The crossing of three different characters’ paths brings us an action-packed film.

 

12. Babycall (2011)

Babycall (2011)

Anna (Noomi Rapace), an overprotective single mother with an 8-year-old child, is unable to see the boundary between fiction and reality. Her ex-husband attempts to kill their son, Anders (Vetle Qvenild Werring), which makes her a strong-willed character who tries her best to protect him. Several coincident tales converge during the story, and the action is concentrated in the last minutes of the film.

Babycall (or, The Monitor), directed by Pål Sletaune, is a Norwegian psychological thriller in so far as the viewer will also find it difficult to distinguish where reality lies. The film becomes progressively jagged and chaotic, as Anna suffers a personal crisis.

 

11. Escape (2012)

Escape (2012)

Norway, 1363: The Black Death has annihilated a considerable number of the Norwegian population. A family seeking a more favourable life is lynched by a group of remorseless slayers. Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen), the only survivor, is taken as a hostage since Dagmar (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the leader of the group, wants to use her for personal purposes. Signe needs to find an ally who will help her run away.

Escape, directed by Roar Uthaug, is a well-directed period film. Nevertheless, it focuses too much on the girl’s escape attempts and lacks an in-depth look at the relationship between the accomplices. The art direction is well-executed, and the locations are cleverly chosen.

 

10. Bad Faith (2010)

Bad Faith (2010)

Bad Faith is a Swedish film directed by Kristian Petri that exposes a mosaic of awkward and terrible events which Mona (Sonja Richter) witnesses.

While it may be tedious or slow moving for some viewers, it is, however, an authentic, picturesque creation. Long takes and travelling shots create an amazing, graphic impact. Odd dialogues with his partner Frank (Jonas Karlsson) and unnatural reactions by the leading actress in the face of several crimes make it a bizarre, but still tenderhearted work.

 

9. Avalon (2011)

Avalon (2011)

Janne (Johannes Brost) is an immature and melancholic party promoter. He runs the opening of “the hottest new Avalon nightclub” in Båstad (Sweden), which is expected to be a big success. An inadvertent murder is the start of a nightmare. Getting rid of all evidence will be an easy task, as the dead boy is a Lithuanian immigrant who is scorned by the other characters who think only about making money with the inauguration of the club. The opening of the nightclub is eventually the cover-up for the accident.

Axel Petersén brings us a sluggish film with an apparently straightforward plot that you can comprehend with ease by reading the synopsis. However, it has a warped background, as the film goes further than the main storyline by revealing acquaintances’ secrets, which make it somehow more comedic than dramatic.

 

 

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  • Jay C

    This is a great list. I also recommend The Hunt, a Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal and Casino Royale fame).

    • Unkle Amon

      The Hunt is great but it’s not actually a thriller.

      • randomrandom

        It definetelly feels like one though

  • The Danish film “Deliver Us from Evil (Fri os fra det onde)” should also be on this list.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1272012/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3

  • Porst

    ‘Sauna’ from Finland is also an excellent dark thriller I highly recommend. It’s also known as ‘Evil Rising’ and ‘Filth’. It’s beautifully shot and has a lot of really creepy symbolism.

  • Tuoppi

    The Hypnotist isnt “worth your time”. It’s formulaic and very predictable! Badly writen overall.

  • Richard Laza Lønningen