Norway brings us a horror film about the dangers of live theater.
Leonora (Gitte Witt) and Jacob (Thomas Gullestad) are a married couple raising their daughter, Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), in a post-apocalyptic famine-filled world. A theater troupe sends them invitations to a show, with dinner included. This, naturally, seems suspicious to the pair, since food is scarce and any offer to get something for free seems too good to be true. However, they ultimately agree to go. The show is run by a rich man named Mathias (Thorbjørn Harr), who acts as the Master of Ceremonies. The production is akin to “Sleep No More.” It takes place at a hotel and the audience can follow whichever characters they like. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is very off about this play, but every time it seems like they uncover it, Leonora and Jacob just discover it’s another part of the show. So, where exactly does the show end and the real horror begin?
Admittedly, it’s hard to like a horror movie where the premise feels as forced as this one. No one, not even the characters, thinks that the show that promises a free meal isn’t a trap. It’s so clearly a set-up that the troupe barely even tries to hide it. When Leonora asks how much a ticket is, the answer is just “whatever you’ve got.” The only reason anyone goes is because their situation is so desperate that they can’t afford not to take the risk. After all, if you’re murdered in an apocalypse on a full stomach, it probably beats the slow starvation you were dealing with already. They try to smooth it over by having Leonora be relentlessly optimistic, but it still always feels weird to have a film start off with the equivalent of diabetic teenagers say “well, if we go in that haunted house we are definitely going to die, but we might get the insulin we need.”
Once you’re inside, the atmosphere takes over and I will admit that I think the atmosphere of this movie does a lot of heavy lifting. It’s an abandoned hotel and once the show starts, it becomes completely believable that this would be a great setting for an immersive theater experience. If it weren’t the apocalypse and you had paid a few hundred dollars for the tickets, you would assume it’s just a very elaborate performance. The costuming isn’t complicated, nor are the plots, but since it’s the post-apocalypse that’s forgivable. The setting is suitably creepy to make you believe that there are parts of this hotel that you should never see.
The other strength of the movie is that it does, for a while, keep you in suspense. You know something’s up because it would be a very boring movie if it was literally just watching people watch a play. However, while Leonora and Jacob originally seem to “see through the veil” and realize that something awful is happening, it’s revealed that the thing they’re witnessing is just as fake as the rest of the performance, making it uncertain when the other shoe is going to drop. Still, when it does, you don’t get the feeling of satisfaction you should have, because you always knew something was coming and you probably had a solid idea of what. The performances are solid, but most of the film is focused on Gitte interacting with the various groups.
Overall, it’s a pretty neat idea for a film, but it could have been done a little better.
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