I wrote about Scandinavian horror movies to tie in with the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Let the Right One In, inspired by Tomas Alfredson’s film of John Ajvide Lindqvist‘s novel. For the purposes of the article, I defined Scandinavia as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and left out Finland. If the piece had been longer I might have shoehorned Iceland into it.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Like Twilight, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is a love story between a human and a vampire, but there the resemblance ends. Thefilm has fantastical elements, but is far from being a romantic fantasy. It’s set in the real world. But in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, the real world and the supernatural are not incompatible.

The popular conception of Scandinavia, at least for those of us who have never been there, is of a land of eternal dusk, populated by gloomy depressives whose attempts at rational tolerance founder in alcohol, chaos and death. It’s a simplistic view, seemingly reinforced by the avalanche of Scandi-crime fiction and cop shows currently so popular in the English-speaking world.

To read more, please click on the snowy screengrab from the film to be tobogganed straight to the article on the Telegraph website.

And here are some of my notes and lists I made while writing the piece: (please note that the lists are far from exhaustive, also a bit of a mess…)



*Haxan (1922) Swedish/Danish

The Phantom Carriage (1958)

Hour of the Wolf (1968) Bergman

Face to Face (1976) Bergman/psychological horror

The Sleep of Death (1981) Swedish/Irish, costume, LeFanu

Besökarna (1988) haunted house Sounds of Silence (1989) Swedish/American haunted house

Svart Lucia (1992)

The Kingdom/Riget (1994) mini-series

Evil Ed (1997) horror-comedy/harsh censorship in Sweden till 1996

Sleepwalker (2000)

The Cellar (2003)

Camp Slaughter (2004)

Drowning Ghost (2004)

Death Academy (2005)

Die Zombiejäger (2005)

Frostbite (2006)

Let the Right One In (2008)

Not Like Others (2009) Sweden’s 3rd vampire film

Madness (2010) set in Minneapolis

Insane (2010) hotel

Sector 236 – Thor’s Wrath (2010)

*Marianne (2011) the Mare – sleep paralysis

Blood Runs Cold (2011) slasher


Insomnia (1997)

Villmark/Dark Woods (2003) thriller/horror

*Naboer (2005)

*Cold Prey/Fritt Vilt (2006) slasher

Cold Prey 2: Resurrection (2008)

*Rovdyr/Manhunt (2008)

*Dead Snow (2009)

Snarveien/Detour (2009) thriller

Headhunters (2011)

Island of Darkness (Mørkets Øy 1997)

Hidden (Skjult 2009)

Dead Snow (Død Snø 2009)

Cold Prey III (2010)

The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren 2010)


Nightwatch/Nattevagten (1994) Bornedal/Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Kollegiet/Room 205 (2007)

Carl Dreyer – Vampyr (also Day of Wrath, Joan of Arc etc)

Vampyr – white-haired vampire more of a witch


Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009)

MAGICIAN, THE (1958, b/w) Max Von Sydow wears a fake Abe Lincoln beard and doesn’t utter a single word for the first hour of thus lesser-known but beguiling Ingmar Bergman film about the battle of wits between the mysterious Dr Vogler (Von Sydow), hypnotist leader of a band of travelling players, and Dr Vergerus (Gunnar Björnstrand), the cynical doctor who humiliates him one night in 1846. Beautifully shot (Ingrid Thulin, who plays Vogler’s androgymous assistant, has never looked lovelier), it’s a thinly veiled allegory about artists and critics that climaxes with a show of magic trickery far spookier than anything you’ll find in Gothika. I particularly enjoyed the eyeball in the inkwell.

HOUR OF THE WOLF (1967, b/w) Max Von Sydow plays an artist who’s staying with his pregnant wife (Liv Ullmann) on a remote island in this slow but fnatastically creepy Ingmar Bergman-goes-gothic shocker. Naturally he goes barking mad and starts interacting with the creatures from his own imagination: an ex-mistress who pretends to be dead, a baron bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bela Lugosi, an old lady who removes her face along with her hat… It all ends very badly. And the moral is – artists who work at home should get out of the house and party more often.

SILENCE, THE (1963) Stranded in a strife-torn foreign country, uptight lesbian Ingrid Thulin is smoking and drinking herself to death while her blowsy sister (Gunnel Lindblom) picks up a waiter for sex, leaving her small son to roam the corridors of a hotel where the only other guests are dwarves. Back in 1963, this became a succès de scandale because of the rumpy-pumpy; nowadays it comes across as a seriously weird hotel movie to set next to Last Year at Marienbad and The Shining, with gorgeous black-and-white cinematography Sven Nykvist.

[the preceding three reviews are from my forthcoming collection of short film reviews]

 “Whenever Scandinavian cinema has five minutes to fill, it burns a witch” (Dilys Powell in a review of The Seventh Seal) “the confabulation of (pagan) superstitions and Christian belief Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) a reworking of The Virgin Spring witches The Element of Crime La passion de Jeanne d’Arc …thesis that Scandinavian horror films dramatize a deep-seated cultural fear that paganism, which was driven underground but never vanquished, threatens to (re-)surface and (re-)assert itself at any time.

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground – appeal of pre-Christian religion to Scandinavian youths, including the revival of Odinism. Vikings Norse myths Witches reputation as lands of rationalism and tolerance but the dark is always there pagan beliefs and viking violence threatening to erupt from their confines

“The Norwegians know all about witches, for Norway, with its black forests and icy mountains, is where the first witches came from.”

from Burn, Witch, Burn: A First Look at the Scandinavian Horror Film by Rebecca A. Umland and Samuel J. Umland – from Horror International (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Studies) edited by Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams.

 The demons are innumerable, arrive at the most inappropriate times and create panic and terror… but I have learned that if I can master the negative forces and harness them to my chariot, then they can work to my advantage…. Lilies often grow out of carcasses’ arseholes.” (Ingmar Bergman)


The Bridge (Sweden/Denmark)

Those Who Kill (Denmark)

Borgen (Denmark)

The Killing (Denmark)

Wallander (Sweden)


Inspector Martin Beck, created by Sjöwall and Wahlöö in the 1960s

Henning Mankell (Wallander) married to Ingmar Bergman’s daughter Eva he has spoken of watching films in the brooding company of his late father-in-law “We would have long nights talking to each other and, while he didn’t laugh that much, he did once say that we were the ‘Swedish brothers of gloom’. That made us both smile.”

(from an interview with Henning Mankell in the Guardian)

Stieg Larsson

Lars Kepler (The Hypnotist)

Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom (Three Seconds – Swedish)

Hakan Nesser (Inspector Van Veeteren)

Kjell Eriksson (Ann Lindell mysteries, Sweden)

Arne Dahl (Detective Paul Hjelm, Misterioso, Sweden)

Lisa Marklund (Sweden)

Karin Fossum (Bad Intentions)

KO Dahl (Norway – The Last Fix)

Jo Nesbo (Harry Hole, Norway)

Camilla Läckberg (The Ice Princess, Sweden, Erica Flack)

Arnaldur Indriðason (Iceland)

“I read on another thread somewhere that Scandinavian literature tends to be gloomy, depressing, or dark. I wonder whether this is because Scandinavian authors sit brooding in log cabins wondering whether to commit suicide, or to murder someone and then write a crime novel about it; or whether this has something to do with typecasting and selective translation.”

(from an interesting discussion on Scandinavian literature on the World Literature Forum.

Strindberg, Munch, Ibsen, Kierkegaard, Hamsun

Von Trier, Refn, Vinterberg, Scherfig, Bier, Bornedal

“The standing joke about Scandinavian crime fiction is that Scandinavia has so little crime. How do you think the Anders Breivik massacre will affect your sense of your main setting, Oslo?

Since this was an act of an insane person, it doesn’t change my view of Oslo. The massacre itself has probably influenced me as a writer, but it’s too soon to tell in what way. I think it’s in the back of the head of every Norwegian, not only crime writers. It may be that in some years this is an event we will look back at more like a natural disaster, like an earthquake, than a political shift in the culture.” From  an interview with Jo Nesbø in The Observer.



  1. Is this article supposed to be about the occult or crime fiction? It seems to be a bit of a muddle. I see several things that I like in both areas, but don’t you think you should have focused on one of these subjects and stuck with it, or broken it into two articles, dealing with each subject in turn?

    Still it’s a good list of Scandi entertainment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s