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FILM

Nordic ‘folklore zombie’ to hit Swedish cinemas

Three Swedish indie filmmakers, who unearthed an old Nordic folklore creature to spin an Evil Dead-inspired tale of gore and desperation, have secured Swedish distribution after successes in the US. The Local's Ann Törnkvist meets Tommy Wiklund and Sonny Laguna.

Nordic 'folklore zombie' to hit Swedish cinemas

Tommy Wiklund is driving through the winter night with deer sniffing at the edges of the road in Knivsta, a scattered satellite town near Uppsala in eastern Sweden.

The forests of the Uppland plains press up against the car.

Once a year, Wiklund, his childhood buddy Sonny Laguna, and the third musketeer David Liljeblad, rent a cabin deep in the woods and turn off their mobile phones.

Then they watch 72 hours of horror movies in a row.

”I mean, how many ’friends go on holiday in the woods’ horror movies have you seen? We know it’s a standard template,” says Laguna when explaining the premise of their new film Vittra (Wither).

The film has incorrectly been labelled “Sweden’s first zombie film”. That’s not to say they don’t like zombies.

They both have high praise for US television series The Walking Dead, although Wiklund and Laguna note that its enduring strength is the psychological interplay of the survivors rather than trying to explain the pandemic.

Their film looks at a nearly-forgotten Nordic creature – the vittra that sleeps under ground. The reason it’s not a zombie film, they explain as Wiklund pulls up at a local pizzeria, is that their interpretation of the mythical being focuses on a gradual takeover of a person’s soul, rather than mindless flesh-chomping cadavres.

“If you wandered into the vittra’s territory you could end up in trouble,” says Wiklund, with his wide-eyed gaze and a bombastic voice that commands an entire corner of the restaurant.

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: The official Vitra trailer

The pair notes that some older Swedish maps still have markings for “Wither Trails” (vitterstråk), ambling paths through the wilderness, where old folklore warned that one should not build a home.

“They don’t show up on Google Maps, of course,” Wiklund says.

“It was probably just a good way to control the boundaries of private land,” interjects Laguna, as he pours his colleague a glass of Coca-Cola.

“I’ve managed to cut down to two litres a week, but during production I drank two litres a day,” he says about the exhausting 50-day filming period, which was entirely self-financed. By day, Laguna works at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, while Wiklund is a healthcare clerk.

They have already produced the English-language film Madness, which was released in the US in 2010 and then in France and Germany. Their movie Blood Runs Cold premiered at Frightfest in 2011, with releases in the UK, US and Germany.

“Madness was a very over the top Chainsaw Massacre kind of film,” Wiklund says.

“With Vittra we said, let’s do it in Swedish. Some people say language is no longer a barrier to selling films internationally, but that’s not true.”

Despite finding it harder to sell the Swedish-language Vittra, the filmmakers have tied up with US distributors Artsploitation and secured DVD distribution in Germany, where the film will also be shown on television.

They have also secured limited release of Vittra in Swedish cinemas in August.

Their success abroad reflects in part that sci-fi, fantasy, and horror are almost completely overlooked genres in Sweden, with vampire teen angst drama Let The Right One In a notable exception in recent years.

Instead, Norwegian filmmakers lead the Scandinavian field with films such as Troll Hunter, say Laguna and Wiklund, before peppering the conversation with a long list of other titles.

Yet one Swedish paranormal horror classic, The Visitors (Besökarna), is a favourite of Wiklund’s.

The scene in which an invisible poltergeist ties up a ghostbuster played by Johannes Brost and drowns him in a duck pond haunted many a Swedish child’s dreams in 1988.

“‘Damn, Brost! Could we get him?’ we asked. We were so lucky, timing-wise, to get him, because he had a gap between Avalon and the Olof Palme mini series A Pilgrim’s Death,” says Wiklund.

“I was a bit thick at first because I didn’t realize quite how good of an actor he is,” says Laguna, who is less of a fan of The Visitors, but is delighted to have Brost on board.

SEE A GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM THE FILMING (WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT)

They have aimed to respect the serious feel of old school classics rather than transgress into an ironic or self-depracatory style. The duo has almost no love for horror films that make fun of the genre.

“I hate Cabin in the Woods. Scream, however, might be silly but it’s clever as it has a valid point about a psychopath being able to copy horror movie plots in real life,” Laguna says.

Another pet peeve is Hollywood producers who have multimillion dollar budgets, but either waste it on being too parodic or not focusing enough on the special effects. Laguna looks positively disgusted when he works his way through a list of films that use special affects poorly.

In contrast to Hollywood-scale production, their company, Stockholm Syndrome Film, spent 300,000 kronor ($47,000) on Vittra.

“Our challenge is to make a low budget film not look low budget. We don’t want quality to detract from the film itself,” Wiklund says.

“You can’t have people thinking ‘this looks homemade’ as soon as they start watching,” interrupts Laguna softly.

Everything they have learned about making horror films is self-taught after high school. They credit Evil Dead producer Sam Raimi for being “a genius already at the age of 19” and say they themselves wouldn’t say no if Hollywood came knocking on their door, but they wouldn’t want to sell their souls – at least not full time.

“Being an independent filmmaker means you don’t have another person standing behind you and tapping you on your shoulder as you film,” Wiklund says.

And they do everything themselves, including audio effects, which meant dragging a literal fruit bazaar into a recording studio and going haywire.

“Oranges, melons, you name it. There’s a lot of rain in the film and we almost ruined the equipment trying to replicate the sound of raindrops on a metal windowsill,” Wiklund says.

“We were exhausted and left it all and when we got back it was disgusting,” they say about the fruit massacre that ensued.

“It wasn’t just moldy, it was crawling.”

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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CULTURE

‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/imagebank.sweden.se

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Footwear

Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden

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