5. Cold Prey (2006, Norway)
Cold Prey is similar Dead Snow, but without the humour. Where Dead Snow is over the top, scary, and funny, Cold Prey is dead serious. It centres on five friends as they head out for a weekend of snowboarding in the Norwegian Alps, but the trip takes a turn for the worse when one of them breaks his leg and they are forced to seek shelter in an abandoned hotel. As they arrive, a mysterious figure is watching them, and little do they know that hell is about to break lose.
At its core, Cold Prey is a slasher movie, and it does follow some of the tropes connected to slasher movies. The difference between this and many other slashers is that Cold Prey is very well done, and made with a passion that many movies of this kind barely comes close to. The movie has some excellent moments of tension, through the use of brilliant cinematography.
The acting is for the most part very good, and the atmosphere is chilling (literary and figuratively). The movie was successful enough to garner a sequel, and an honourable mention goes to Cold Prey 2 (2008) for being just as good as the original.
4. Antichrist (2009, Denmark)
Antichrist is probably the most unconventional movie on this list. Defined as an ‘experimental-horror’ it is directed by cinematic legend (for better or for worse) Lars Von Trier. The movie stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as He and She, a couple who tragically lost their son. As a way of dealing with the grief, they retreat to ‘Eden’, an isolated cabin in the woods, but instead of fixing their marriage, antagonism starts growing between them.
Apart from maybe Nymphomaniac, Antichrist is the most controversial movie from Lars Von Trier, with some critics taking issues with the movies graphic sexual and violent content, not to mention the subject matter.
That aside, the movie is filled with gorgeous cinematography (once again showcasing the talent of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle), masterfully switching between handheld camera, almost Dogme95-esque, and more artistic and calm shots.
The movie also features magnificent performances by the two leads with their bold portrayal of the darkest corners of the human psyche. When it comes down to it, Antichrist is not a movie for everyone, but those who can look past the controversy and shocking elements are in for a great view.
3. Trollhunter (2010, Norway)
Trollhunter is probably the least horror-esque movie on this list, with it containing traits from both dark-fantasy, comedy, and drama, but at its core, it is a found-footage horror.
The movie is deeply rooted in Norwegian folktales, and it tells the story of a group of college students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), who sets out to document some suspicious animal killings. While there, they come across a man they presume is a poacher, but they discover that he is a part of a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of trolls from the public.
The movie blends horror and comedy in a unique and interesting way, having plenty of dry, and oftentimes dark, humour, while also keeping the atmosphere chilling and suspenseful.
The movie features both beautiful scenery and quite decent acting, but what really sells it is the special effects. Being found-footage, the movie is of course filmed with a handheld camera, meaning that some shots off the trolls look jolted and shaky, but for some of the better shots, the trolls look impressively real.
Trollhunter could easily be written off as just a fun monster movie, but according to some critics, it also works as a satirical critique of the Norwegian government, in regards to how they handle problems. But regardless if that is the general interpretation or not, the movie is a great viewing experience.
2. Nightwatch (1994, Denmark)
After going through a bit of a stale period, Danish cinema finally saw some hope in the shape of Nightwatch. The movie stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Martin, a young Law student, who takes a job as a night guard at a local morgue. Meanwhile, a serial killer, whose main interest is to scalp prostitutes, is on the loose.
Apart from being a huge influence on future movies of its kind, this horror-thriller gave audiences a whiff of fresh air, with well-crafted scares and excellent uses of tension. Ole Bornedal, the director, delivered a movie that had enough twists to keep the audience in the dark for the main runtime, but by the same time, the movie provides plenty of small clues, and clever pieces of foreshadowing, to make sure that nothing seems out of nowhere.
The movie is well acted, especially in regards to the performances by Ulf Pilgaard, who plays Police Inspector Wormer, and by the guy who would later be known as Jamie Lannister.
Nightwatch manages to balance the line between dread and anticipation, where the audience really wants to figure out the next twist, but is simultaneously it dreads the anticipated. And while the movie is not necessarily that original, the atmosphere created by it is more than enough to make it a great viewing experience.
1. Let the Right One In (2008, Sweden)
Let the Right One In is a masterpiece of romantic-horror by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. It stars Kåre Hedebrant as a bullied young boy in the Swedish town of Blackeberg (a suburb of Stockholm). He befriends the peculiar young girl Eli (Lina Leandersson), who recently moved in next door to him, and he soon discovers that she is a vampire.
The movie masterfully blends a chilling atmosphere with a heart-warming story, having the audience aww for the young leads, while still being disturbed by the violence surrounding said characters. Beautifully shot, and excellently framed, the movie makes sure that the audience is invested.
Accompanied by a haunting and beautiful score, and featuring some of the best child performances in recent memory, especially by Lina Leandersson, the movie is nothing short of spectacular. It manages to mix two genres, coming-of-age and horror, while still being unconventional enough to add something new to both.
Let the right one in is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and turned out to be one of the most successful movies to come out of Sweden of the past many years (it even had a good American remake, not better than the original, but still a solid movie).
It was praised by critics, and loved by audiences, and it stands as not just the best Scandinavian horror movies of the 21st century, but one of the best horror movies of the 21st century in general.
Author Bio: Alexander Buhl is the Denmark based cinephile with a passion for rule-breaking movies. His enthusiasm for movies is only exceeded by his enthusiasm for complaining about the overused clichés in movies.