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Ragnarok – 7

Director – Mikkel Brænne Sandemose

Cast – Pål Sverre Hagen, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Bjørn Sundquist, Sofia Helin, Maria Annette Tanderø Berglyd, Vera Rudi

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The first time I saw a trailer for Ragnarok I knew that this was a film I would enjoy. If you know me then you know that I love creature films, especially BIG creature films. On top of this, I enjoy archeological / adventure elements and this also came with that. Plus, it had been a while since I viewed a Norwegian horror film, with the last being Cold Prey 3, which just so happened to also be directed by this film’s director. So, did I enjoy Ragnarok like I thought I would? I sure did.

Archeologist Sigurd Svendsen has exhausted the last few years, and a lot of grant money, on uncovering the meaning behind secret runes found aboard an old Oseberg ship. As of now he has failed to appease those who front the money for his research, and his wild theories about Ragnarok, the end of the world in Norwegian mythology, ensure that they have lost their faith in him. When a colleague comes across an ancient map that he believes will lead him to the answers he desires, he embarks on an expedition to Finnmark, the “no man’s land” between Norway and Russia, and finds that the runes were not what he expected them to be – they were warnings.

This story from first-time writer John Kare Baake had me hooked from the get-go. After an introductory scene where a large regiment of Vikings come face to face with a heinous, off-screen menace, we fast forward to modern times and the struggles of Sigurd Svendsen. He is somewhat the cliché modern single dad, widowed after the death of his wife and struggling to attend choir recitals while dealing with a time-consuming job as a lead researcher for a large museum. His wild theories about Vikings and their travels do little to impress anyone but his colleagues, as even his children don’t want anything to do with them. I will say this though – his theories definitely caught my attention. Before long he, two colleagues, and his two children are en route to Finnmark, which requires them to hire a guide to trek them through the terrain and remnants of the Soviet Union’s Cold War collapse. They cross large lakes and climb over forgotten military tanks, eventually reaching the site carved into the map. The first half of the story is entirely development, and that was OK with me. The constant changes in landscape and positive dialogue / character development kept me engaged, but it was really the landscape / scenery that had me glued to the screen. We first see signs of trouble at the film’s halfway point, with the first kill occurring right at the 45 minute mark. At this point the creature, or whatever it is, has yet to be seen, but soon enough we see evidence that something very sinister has been occurring at this spot for centuries. The Vikings met their demise, as did the Russian soldiers half a century ago, and now the researchers are in over their heads. The first visual of the beast does not occur until 70 minutes into the film, and it is a pretty sweet introduction. From then on out the story consists of our leads trying to make it out of the area alive, not caring whether they bring back the evidence they tried so dearly to uncover.

I will say this before I continue – Ragnarok is a borderline “family” film. It comes with a PG-13 rating, which does not automatically doom a horror film these days, but keep that in mind. The biggest reason behind why I refer to this as a family film is its execution. We get the usual adventure-esque score, similar to films like National Treasure, and the children play heavy roles in the film. This is by no means a complaint of mine, I am just throwing it out there for you. However, because of this family element the horror is affected. I am sad to say that there are no on-screen kills whatsoever. Yes, this is a creature film without any kills to view. There are kills, but if you are expecting the usual awesomeness associated with suck flicks you may be disappointed.

Thankfully, Mikkel Braenne Sandermose’s direction makes the most out of the horror. I loved the look of the creature, and while every scene of it involved CGI he managed to bring out good tension whenever the creature hit the screen. The same can be said about the kill sequences. While you do not see the kill happen, he manages to execute the off-screen action fairly well and with enough tenacity to keep the viewer engaged. I mentioned earlier that it takes a good while before the action kicks in, and what helped me stay engaged was how visually appealing the film is. The sets used are incredible and the landscapes are sure to keep those with a heart for exploration entertained. If it were not for the locations, props, landscape, and Sandermose’s overall direction, the film would have been a boring, B-movie-esque experience.

Overall, Ragnarok is a film that I enjoyed. I have an extreme love for creature films, as well as adventure flicks, so if you feel the same then you should give this a shot. Its family element will keep it from delivering the goods we typically desire, but everything else in the film makes up for that.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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