Starring Andréa Winter, Christer Cavallius, Patrick von Barkenberg
Directed by Patrick von Barkenberg
Distributed by Artsploitation Films
Written by Patrick von Barkenberg and Andréa Winter and directed by von Barkenberg, Blood Paradise is a mind-bending horror movie set in rural Sweden. (A rather popular theme this month, it seems.) It was released this earlier this month by Artsploitation Films.
Andréa Winter is Robin Richards, a wealthy and famous bestselling author of graphically violent crime fiction. Her last book was a flop, and so her agent books her a vacation on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Sweden. And why not? It isn’t the worst idea ever. Well, one would think. But then again, you never know where violent hillbillies might be hiding.
Blood Paradise is a head-scratcher, for sure. There are some elements that are weird because they’re meant to be that way. But there’s also a lot of weird stuff that seems unintentional, though who really knows with this one. And, of course, Robin Richards makes dumb, easily avoidable horror movie character decisions. The movie is weird enough that it’s hard to tell if things that seem at first like bad writing might have been intentional. Well, whatever’s going on, it mostly works.
The weirder elements are generally in the smaller moments. Rolf (Rolf Brunnström), the owner of the farm where Richards is staying, keeps a picture of his dead wife in a doll-size baby carriage. This detail is never explained, nor do any of the characters comment on it. It’s probably best that way. Also, there’s a scene where a kitchen is filled to capacity with plants, and bees are buzzing everywhere. Who does that? Anyway, there’s a lot of little details like this that add up. You’re almost constantly caught off guard.
Well, but at least the thing isn’t completely dark. There’s a lot of levity and humor here. At various points, the film can be semi-serious, kinda dark, or a surrealist fever dream. These tones don’t always mesh so well, and the film can sometimes suffer for this. I personally like this kind of tonal incongruity, for the most part. Your mileage will vary, of course. These tonal shifts could become grating to some viewers.
One of the main vessels for the film’s humor is a character named Hans Bubi (Christer Cavallius). He’s a driver who works for the family that owns the farm. His main role is to transport Robin from her train station to the farm, but he finds plenty of ways to weasel his way back into her life. He’s a pervert and a degenerate, always staring to catch a glance at one or more of Robin’s body parts. And yet, somehow, Winters and von Barkenberg make him an at least marginally sympathetic character, especially compared to the rest of the supporting characters.
Hans’s wife abuses him, which makes him a bit more sympathetic. In fact, gender roles and expectations are played with quite a lot in Blood Paradise. Von Barkenberg plays Robin’s boyfriend, appropriately named Teddy. He’s quite the delicate flower, especially when contrasted with Robin. He’s a bit of an airhead, and always concerned with his looks. It’s kind of nice to see a trophy boyfriend for once. That Hans’s wife abuses him both verbally and physically while he remains docile is also an interesting choice. You’ll understand why all this was done by the climax. Well, to an extent, at least.
Von Barkenberg makes some pretty interesting aesthetic choices with this film. There are some great POV shots that ramp up the tension during the violence/murder moments. In fact, there’s a lot to love about the shot composition. It’s almost inspired at times. And veteran horror DP Thomas Rist gives the film an almost ethereal look, which adds a ton to the film’s surreal and dreamlike quality.
Blood Paradise is Patrick von Barkenber’s first feature, though he has made a handful of shorts over the last decade. But considering the many, many roles that Andréa Winter played in the creation of the film, it would be crude to call von Barkenberg the movie’s auteur. That’s a stupid word anyway. But with each of the partners contributing so much to the production, the authorship seems to me to be equally divided between the two. I definitely look forward to whatever else they have coming up.
This Artsploitation Blu-ray release includes a number of deleted scenes. I can definitely understand why these scenes, some of which were quite good on their own, were taken out. They were things that, after being trimmed, make Blood Paradise that much more tightly structured. Also, one of the scenes is a dream sequence with implied bestiality, so who knows how well that would have gone over.
Also included are two music videos from Baby Yaga, Andréa Winter’s musical alias. Both have a synthwave vibe to them. One of the videos actually adds to the film’s mythology a bit in a darkly humorous kind of way.
I really wish there was something included about the making of the film, but that’s not a huge deal.
Blood Paradise is a strange little movie that’s likely to be enjoyed by anyone with a strong sense of the absurd.
- Delete Scenes
- Music Videos: Dreamer by Baby Yaga, You and Me by Baby Yaga
Blood Paradise‘s inconsistent tone might turn some viewers off, but anyone who likes surreal movies about murder on a rural Swedish farm will really dig it.