RED DOT Review: Grim, Gripping Swedish Survival Thriller Now on Netflix

Image result for red dot poster netflix

Starring Nanna Blondell and Johannes Kuhnke

Written by Alain Daborg and Per Dickson

Directed by Alain Darborg

Red Dot, Netflix’s first Swedish original feature-film, is darker, gorier, and generally more misanthropic than most Netflix genre fare. A spiraling and unyielding descent into a frozen hellscape of the protagonists’ own design, Red Dot’s high-concept, high-yield premise– namely, a couple on a camping retreat are awoken by the sight of a red laser dot in their tent– makes for a blisteringly frightening 80-minute ride. Almost Faustian in nature, Nadja (Nanna Blondell) and Einar (Johannes Kuhnke) are purveyors of their own suffering– in asking for too much, they’re posed to meet their ends.

The requisite backstory is streamlined and unfussy. Nadja and Einar are in love. He proposes to her in the kind of cutesy-comic scenario that is undoubtedly more charming on the page than on the screen (here, it’s accidentally over the loudspeaker at their favorite restaurant) and all seems right with the couple. They’re young, attractive, and Nadja’s race (she’s a black woman dating a white man) is narratively present without being terribly pronounced. It’s Sweden in the 21st century, and these yuppies are going to make it.

Director Alain Daborg along with co-writer Per Dickson are quick to immolate the honeymoon period, however, casting their puppy-love atop a burning effigy of human resentment and incompatibility. They’re soon fighting all the time, awkwardly ambling about their shared space, leaving trails of contempt over every broken washing machine or dirty pile of laundry. Worse still, Nadja is pregnant, a critical tidbit she reveals only to neighbor Tomas (Thomas Hanzon). She doesn’t know if she will make a good mother. She doesn’t know if she wants to keep the baby.

Like trees lining the perimeter of Kiruna’s frozen tundra, the fractured, harsh landscape of their relationship is known– it is virulent and strained. Either aloof or simply blockish, Einar suggests he and Nadja spend the weekend far away camping under the Northern Lights, just the two of them. Nadja, despite the morning sickness that Einar is painfully unaware of (she stops the car several times to vomit and Einar never questions why that might be), reluctantly agrees. The tension that lived in shadows and corners before becomes more pronounced the closer they get to their destination. Einar hits another traveler’s car at the gas station and several locals scrawl racial epithets on their car. The innkeeper, too, is uncomfortably curious about their sex life, urging them to make passionate love to one another under the Aurora Borealis.

The first night they’re out under the pinks, greens, and purples delicately dancing in the sky above, the red dot appears. At first innocuous– Nadja reasons, in conventional horror fashion, that it must be kids– the bullets soon start flying, and without supplies or appropriate gear, Nadja and Einar flee into the nearby woods, thus beginning their relentless cat-and-mouse game with an unknown pursuer.

Domestic discontent fuels most of the first act. Red Dot has less than an hour left to go when the titular dot makes it first appearance. Director Daborg wisely knows the inherent limits of his premise, ensuring the ensuing action never overstay its welcome or plummet into tedium– there is only so much subversion to be found in chasing a young couple through the woods. In lieu of innovation, Daborg channels his inner sadist, rendering Red Dot what will likely be one of 2021’s most dour and discouraging experiences. The violence soon comes hard and fast as dogs are beheaded, skin is flayed, and bones are crushed. Regarding that first note in particular, dog lovers are warned.

Early indications that racism or cultural discontent are soon discarded– this isn’t a random or politically-motivated attack. Instead, Nadja and Einar are being targeted for something considerably darker and more personal. Skeletons in the closet manifest in increasingly disturbing ways, culminating in torture-porn-tinged finale that will make even the most resolute of genre fans turn away.  

Red Dot is a perfect fit for Netflix’s burgeoning interest in financing, producing, and distributing international genre titles. Recent titles like Spain’s Don’t Listen and South Korea’s The Call are compelling, nuanced watches, the kind of titles that belie easy categorization, thereby making them ideal additions to Netflix’s unique library. There, these hard-to-sell movies stand a chance. For fans of hard and fast survival thrills, Red Dot is certain to satisfy. Adrenaline-fueled and sufficiently vicious, the red dot is on target– and the target is a good one.

  • Red Dot


Red Dot is an adrenaline-fueled slice of misanthropic survival thrills. Grisly, gory, and genuinely intense, Red Dot is a worthwhile addition to Netflix’s growing international genre catalog.

User Rating 2.25 (4 votes)


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