SaturdaySkandiKrime/Horrar: Black Lake 2 episodes 7 & 8


Shedunnit

All I can say is, I really hope they don’t try coming up with a third series of this.

I’ve been billing Black Lake 2 as a horror series all along, when I should have known better and guessed it would turn out to be crime behind it all, and this time without the leavening of horror that did form a strand in series 1. Put simply, Isabell has been in love with Uno for years, got pregnant by him at 17, had an abortion and found she couldn’t have children thereafter. So, when she saw him getting off with Josefine, she went mad, killed Josefine, kidnapped her daughter and has been ‘protecting’ her in the old Lighthouse on the island ever since. When Minnie finds Elsa/Maja, Isabell stabs her and nearly kills her, and when Uno comes to take Minnie out, she stabs him in the back, killing him. The hero who saves the day is, guess who? Johan the prick, suffering a completely inexplicable and un-prick-like reversal of character and coming back after he’d got away (with Lippi and Elin from series 1).

You probaly guessed all this last week, didn’t you?

Actually, I have to give the programme credit for one very adept piece of misdirection. Episode 7 was long and slow, stretching minimal story out by making things last, but at least entertaining us with some spectacular shots of the island: cliff paths, seascapes, magnificnt sea-caves and the old lighthouse, a lovely old building completely different from the columns we’re used to in Britain.

But there was a moment when Agnes looks worried as Minnie heads out yet again, alone, untrusted, everyone thinks she’s hallucinating. And I think, as I am meant to think, it’s Agnes. She’s the one. Hearty, SkandiBlonde, jolly hockey sticks Agnes, total believer in Uno’s course, she’s the killer.

And the two episodes dropped in plenty of non-blatant supporting material. Minnie finds Amina’s remains (and those of many others) in the cholera hospital, under the guard of creepy, crazy Oscar, waiting for the killer, brains him (gently) with the blunt side of a crowbar, convinces Uno she’s not imagining it. Uno takes the sensible course: everything’s off, contact the Police, get out.

But everybody’s mobile phones have been stolen and the phone ripped out of the wall. In a locked office to which only two people have keys, Uno and… Agnes. And a bit of business with Agnes taking unto herself a fireaxe. Sent me properly down the wrong path, and I admire things that can do that.

There was even an attempt to direct us back to Gittan, owner of the island, writer of a family history detailing all the ‘disappearances’ down the years (that opening scene was of her grandfather burying the Baltic refugees he’d killed, and killing the lighthouse keeper) and raver about the island containing something evil that mmakes people go bad things. She turns up with a shotgun and a canister of petrol, determined to burn the cholera hospital down, to prevent the Police sniffinf round her family secrets.

Incidentally, Grandad got his comeuppance: he was a passionate Stalinist, fled to Russia and died of starvation in a labour camp. Just a hint of irony, there.

But, of course, we learned last week that Gittan was Isabell’s foster mother. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Isabell’s ‘defence’ is that it wasn’t her, it was the island: something evil made her do it against her will.

Frankly, it pissed me off that Johan should be the one who saves the day. His blackmail works, he gets his laptop, phone and Certificate of Attendance, calls brother Lippi and the boat (Lippi brings then-girlfriend Elin, a too short cameo from the fair Anna Astrom, who in series 1 will suffocate Lippi and be in turn strangled by Johan) and rocks off to Daddy’s meeting without a backward glance, let alone a tear.

Only to find, in episode 8, that he’s got Maja’s locket in his pocket, which convinces him, in defiance of everything we know about Johan, heavily reinforced in episode 7, that he must go back (what is this? Lost?). So, just when Minnie collapses through blood loss and appears to be dead, Johan’s boat appears in the dark, he spots the little girl waving Minnie’s torch and gets everything wrapped up (offscreen) in time to get her the medical attention that will save her life. Ho hum.

There’s even time for an in-joke. Johan says let’s not go there again, Minnie suggests somewhere different: skiing? Tortuously inserted reference to series 1 ticked off, we close on Minnie’s daughter Luna running towards her and a weary but sweet smile from a sweet-faced actress I’d watch again, hopefully in  something better.

Overall, this was an improvement on series 1 by simply not being anything near as bad, and by not lapsing into total incoherence in its final episodes. Not being as bad is, however, the best I could say: it suffered from not having enough plot for eight episodes, though maybe just too much for six, and it had an awful case of creeping camera, those slow forward pans meant to trigger tension that ended up so overused that all they triggered was tedium.

If they do think they’ve got a third series story, or even a viable common link character, I’ll probably watch it, because, you know, I do that and I blog it, so I’d do it to blog it. But I’d prefer not to, thank you very much.

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake 2 – episodes 5 & 6


Would you buy a used psychological course from this man?

I’m prepared to make one complimentary remrk about Black Lake 2, namely that it isn’t as egregiously stupid as Black Lake 1, and that it isn’t sliding inexorably into an horrendous mess, story-wise, or at least not yet. Other than that, it is a piece of crap, in a dull, leaden way as opposed to the sparkling, mad eye glitter of things like Follow the MoneyModus and, still the doyen of them all, Salamander.

Take episode 5. This was a long and slow affair, in which the course-mates, less the deceased Amina, were taken on a trek acoss the island to a semi-boarded up wooden building in which everyone was to wander around, take in the atmosphere lie down and contemplate (which not everybody did).

This took up practically the whole episode, especially Minnie, wandering around so slowly that it was tempting to suspect that the camera was running the digital equivalent of sixteen frames per second. We’re at episode 5, we’re into the back half, so structurally this is the glacial episode where we start getting a bit of connective tissue thrown at us so we are told that the island of Kallskar has always been an isolation ward, effectively, for Stockholm. The crumbling building was a cholera hospital, where victims of epidemics were shunted off to live or die. Later, during the Second World War, it was a camp for Baltic refugees, several of whom, no doubt, had been executed in that pre-credits scene in episode 1, visited by the little girl.

Episode 5 went heavy on the horror tropes, to the point where I got thoroughly sick of the slow forward pan towards a door or a room that creates tension in those who aren’t sick of the obvious manipulation. Vincent thinks creepy Oscar has something to do with Amina’s disappearance, Isabell takes it seriously, Johan doesn’t, and Minnie’s certain she’s getting psychic flashes from Maya (shades of Hanne in series 1, dead children ghosts, or maybe it’s just lack of creative originality).

Minnie’s getting close to connection in a creepy room whose doors open and close (creakily) all by themselves. Creepy Oscar asks what she’s doing, breaking the ‘connection’. She complain about it, as if he’s done it deliberately, to Johan, who tells her to forget it, get her certificate and get out, but she’s too far gone for that kind of rationality. Instead, she goes back on her own, sees a little golden-haired girl.

Incidentally, we learn that wheen Josefine disappeared last year, three weeks later, her daughter Elsa disappeared on her way home from school. Josefine was in a custody battle. Q.E.D., nothing to see here, move on.

Episode 5 ends with someone late at night digging. They uncover a human skull, shift it out the way. Then they start shovelling the dirt over the body of Amina.

Next up, it’s supposed to be the debriefing session, of digital videocamera, for everyone with Uno. There are differing outcomes. Vincent, who’s not afraid of his emotions, ends up sobbing his heart out. Isabell, who’s mentally and emotionally divorced her family, is a former drug addict with connections to Gittan, who straightened her out, that go back years: she’s very familiar with the island. Oscar believes himself to be beyond help, which Uno automatically, and banally, seizes upon as a perfect starting point for help, but he’s here to find out about Josefine. Minnie’s obsession and her statement that she’s seeing things leaves Uno veryworried about her, so she goes all sullen teenager, refusesto speak and walks out. Johan: Johan’s a prick who thinks he’s found the unanswerable blackmail material to get his own way.

But episode 6 is Minnie’s episode and it’s not healthy watching. The girl’s getting obsessed. She took a photo from the cholera hospital, of the Mannheim family, long-term owners of the island. There’s a little blonde-haired girl in the corner, who obviously has to be Maya, but she’s not: guess what, she’s Gittan.

So crazy Minnie decides Gittan knows more about Maja than she’s letting on and enlists Johan to stand guard whilst she maniacly searches Gittan’s place and finds nothing (Johan sees a photo of a younger Isabell inside, does a mini-search and nicks the ledger that he thinks gets him his own way).

Minnie’s starting to crack up, and no wonder. She pleads with Agnes to phone her daughter, Luna, she just needs to talk to her. It’s genuine, and Agnes leaves her to talkin private. Little Luna has a friendwith a pet name and wants one of her own. But Minnie’s brush with sanity doesn’t last long: she seizes the chance to phone Josefine’s ex-husband, posing as a journalist. A casual last question, did Elsa have a pet name? Yes, but only Josefine used it: it was (wait for it) Maja.

Last bit next week. Here’s hoping for something better in a fortnight.

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake 2 episodes 3 & 4


Attractive woman and total prick

I dunno, it’s just like the last one, a mixture of a down-to-earth criminal case and a horror-of-the-past supernatural backstory, with neither part fitting easily with the other. Just like last time, I’m already really only watching it for the attractive lead actress, whilst wanting something large and hairy, preferably with an axe, to drop out of a cupboard and chop Johan up into tiny little pieces.

He really is a prick, and he’s relentless about it to. I want my mobile and computer back, I want my mobile and computer back, I want my mobile and computer back, ad nauseam, and he’s constantly hunting for some dirty little edge that he thinks will get his own way. Minnie co-operates with him to some extent, but even she’s disgusted that he’s doing this for his computer, not because a woman went missing last year, presumed dead.

There’s a moment in episode 3 when Johan, and his got-you-this-time sneer, gets a public comeuppance from Uno. He can have his phone back on condition that he calls his father, tells him where he is and that he loves him. Uno even dials the number. Daddy answers peremptorily and Johan, in front of the rest of the course, can’t speak.

I’m almost sorry for him, but naturally he spends the rest of this week demonstrating exactly why he isn’t deserving of any kind of sympathy.

Last week’s key in the middle of nowhere is found by creepy Oscar. It’s the key to room 5, the room occupied by Josefine, the missing woman. Oscar searches the room, Johan searches the room, caretaker Gittan searches the room, Minnie searches the room, you’d think nobody has anything better to do. There’s a silver locket, unopenable, inscribed Maja. That’s Maja, not Josefine. Supernatural stuff involving bumps in the night (seriously) takes place around the lovely Minnie, who’s started shagging the robust Uno without removing a single item of clothing, except for the outdoor shower.

The thing is, last year, Josefina was also shagging Uno. Whose real name is Erik Larson, who’s ex-Foreign Legion and who was a murder suspect, all of which the monomaniacal Johan seizes on in his superior-but-stupid manner: of course he was a suspect, you self-centred moron, he ran the course.

(There’s a brief shot of flies gathering again that tells me there’s a body wedged somewhere between Minnie’s room 4 and the missing Josefine’s room 5, but I’m betting it’s Maja, and it’s something to do with the little girl in the prelude, that’s if that wasn’t the young Gittan).

Meanwhile, there are undercurrents spinning the story out so it doesn’t end too soon. Creepy Oscar’s hiding a gun. He’s here because of Josefine, that much is obvious. Isabella’s still cheerfully shagging Johan, who gets to clutch her tits a couple of times so we the audience don’t get to see them. Amina comes on to the Vincent, who has his wild streak, but Oscar spoils the deal for her, exposing her as not just back from last year but every year, fucking every man in sight because what she wants to do is fuck Uno and he isn’t interested.

Does this show really knowwhat it’s doing? No.

Having the scales ripped from her eyes in front of everybody kills it off for Amina. She runs away, packs hastily, tells the besimitten Vincent he means nothing to her, is about to take the motorboat and leave when, oh mother, she sees the body in the net, which we now presume is Josefine. Off she runs, in search of help. what she gets is a spade wellied to the back of the head. First one down. I’m going to go for two more next week, ok?

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake 2: episodes 1 & 2


So it’s back.

I’m not approaching the second series of Black Lake with any great enthusiasm, given that the first one descended into so horrendous a mess that this would have to be three times as good to be merely ordinary crap. Perhaps therefore I underrated the opening episode, and it is a better prospect than I’m immediately prepared to allow, but I wasn’t impressed except in one solitary and shallow aspect.

The show certainly isn’t prepared to go outside the parameters previously established. We open with a flashback scene in 1944, a little girl of age 6 or thereabouts, playing in the snowy woods. A shot rings out. She finds two men, one elderly, with a stick, one middle-aged, in naval uniform, digging a grave. There’s a rosy-cheeked wind-up toy which she sneaks out and pinches. As she’s running away, grandad swings a spade to the back of the navy man’s neck, killing him. Inside this old lodge, the girl plays with the toy, until she looks up at the old man.

That’s all we’re getting for episode 1. Remember last time, the ski-lodge was haunted by a long dead child, or so the attractive female lead was convinced, and we have the same thing all over again. This attractive female lead is Minnie, played by Hedda Stiernstedt, who isn’t a Sara-Sofie Boussnina, but has dark hair and eyes, a delicately upturned nose and an overall air of sweet attraction that will have me grumbling every time they take the camera away from her.

Minnie is one of six ‘patients’ who have come to the island of Kallskar, off Stockholm, for an intense fortnight long course of therapy in isolation, run by Uno Lejmond and his sturdy blonde assistant (and former patient) Agnes (Ester Udden). The others are Oscar, Vincent, Johan, Amina and Isabell. Isabell is a former sturdy brunette assistant, Amina and Oscar patients in previous years, Vincent just out of prison. Minni is trying to get custody of her daughter, which has been denied her for reasons unexplained.

Johan (Filip Berg) is our holdover from series 1. It is comforting to discover that Johan didn’t turn into a prick specifically for series 1, Johan is foursquare in his prickdom already. He’s here because Uno’s therapy was a better bet than prison when the Police copped him doing coke at a party: he needs a passing grade from Uno to resume his business management course. But his Dad doesn’t know about any of this and is expecting Johan to take a business meeting for him very shortly, so Johan is being  particularly prickish over certain fizzy rules like no mobiles, no laptops and no leaving the island. Johan believes something can be sorted out if he pays enough money. He’s not here because of any sob-stories.

The kind of therapy in question is exemplified the first night. Minnie hears a cry for help, and for Mummy. The others race out to help. It’s in the well. Minnie’s so concerned, she goes down on the chain: of course they bollocks up holding her, dropping her into the water. She comes up with a bag wrapped around a walktie-talkie, talked and walked by… Agnes. Teamwork, cooperation, under pressure, all for a seeming stranger.

Mind you, Minnie appears to have an affinity for falling in the water. Early in the morning, just after solving the mystery of the amazing disappearing fly, and discovering a fly mausoleum behind the cabinet in her roon, she goes out down to the rocks. She sees some netting, floating nearby, very much human sized. This time, trying to snag it, she plunges in all by herself (no wet t-shirts, coises, coises). We’re only a minute or two from the end of episode 1 by now so you just knooow there’s going to be a body in it, and with true unpredictability… there is.

Funnily enough, from this angle it looks like Johan…

Except that episode 2, with equal unpredictability, sees the body disappear when Minnie leads everyone back to look at it. And we learn, first privately via Uno, then openly in therapy, that the lovely Minnie had/has drug problems, which caused her to have hallucinations. She protests she’s been clean over a year, though it’s doubtful how many of her coursemates believe (actually, in the case of the prick Johann, there’s no doubt whatsoever). The body at any rate was not a hallucination, which is confirmed by a brief night-scene of a rowing boat, rower unknown, towing it through the water…

Ah, Johan. Only two episodes in and you’re longing to see something shitty happen to him, only we know it won’t because he survives into series 1. He will not let this phone/laptop/boat thing go, even though Isabell (Alida Morberg), a workaholic nursery teacher, draws him into her bed for an apparently vigorous shag, albeit not so different that she doesn’t leave him fast asleep in her bed to pay a visit to Uno’s quarters.

But the episode does take a serious turn towards the psycholgical in the case of Johan. It’s obstacle course day, on ‘The Killer’. Bella sits it out for reasons ungiven, Minnie gets a thorn in her foot and retires but Johan won’t let it lie. He challenges Uno to The Killer. If he wins, he gets his phone and laptop back. If Uno wins, everybody has to do the forfeit. Which, when Uno wins by tripping Johan, turns out to be three laps of The Killer. Way to drive a wedge, turn everyone against the prick.

But there’s a serious point to be made by Uno. Making everyone pay that forfeit was seriously unfair. So why didn’t they speak up?  Why didn’t they protest something manifestly wrong? Because they were afraid to, from peer-group pressure, from the father-like role Uno has taken, from not wanting to look weak. This goes double for Johan, who was cheated by Uno and didn’t even protest that. Johan, whose efforts to buy out the rules are to satisfy his overwhelming father, who asked him to suggest a wine with their meal then overrode Johan’s choice.

There is something more going on there than a snarky mind is allowing for. And someone went missing on last year’s course. A woman, never found, who had room 5, the one next door to Minnie, from which all the spooky noises, jarrings and… hallucinations are coming. Something supernatural is stirring. The wind-up toy turns up outside Minnie’s door. She goes off into the night, seeing a subterranean access to room 5. A discarded key lies in the moonlight… Oh look, it’s end of episode 2.

I still think it’s going to turn out as hokum again, but I am reserving a little bit of judgement. In case.

 

Black Lake 2


In the September of 2017, I gleefully excoriated Black Lake, aka Swartsjon, an eight-part Skandi series that couldn’t make up its mind whether it was a horror story or a crime story and in the end was simply unmitigated crap, though unmitigated crap starring a very lovely looking young actress.

One of the best bits about it was its ending, not only because it stopped being so terrible but because it killed off its entire cast, either onscreen or at least impliedly, leaving no possibility of a sequel.

I spoke too soon. Starting Saturday night coming, BBC4 has series 2 on the usual two-episodes a week basis. There is no place for the aforementioned Sarah-Sofie Boussnina but, incredibly, it does star Filip Berg again, as Johan, despite Johan having been stabbed through the heart in episode 8 by Hanne, Ms Boussnina’s character.

Two of the characters from series 1 also appear in a handful of episodes, so I guess that we’re looking at a prequel, with all the associated problems with an adventure that no-one actually got round to mentioning in series 1 and a star who was not only a total pain in the arse but whom we already know to be a) dead and b) in a later story so not at risk in series 2.

What the hey. It’s Skandi, I’ll watch it. I haven’t had a good, whole-hearted snark in too long a time, given how good Below the Surface and The Bridge 4 were. Xmas, the time of peace on earth aand goodwill to all men. You notice how no-one says anything about shitty TV programmes?

Saturday SkandiKrime/Horrar: Black Lake Parts 7 & 8


They never let her look like this in the series

I’m doing the wrap-up review for this piece of tosh in two parts this week, for reasons I shall shortly explain. Normally, I’d watch the double-bill back to back then let the overall impressions inform my response. But Part 7 was such a ripe piece of complete nonsense that, if I had to wait a week for the final episode I would just have given up on the spot and not bothered. When a series gets so badly out of control as this, who needs whatever pathetic answers it’s going to provide?

At least part 7 started off gloriously, with a five-second shot of a hulking mountain, its vertical face clean-lit with snow, but after that it was back inside the Hotel Swartsjon, and into its cellar, where Mette, the only person in the entire series to have shown any kind of sanity, is trying to keep her moody little sister, Hanne, from trying to throw herself into the fire. Poor Mette: I’ve put her picture up above because she deserves recognition. I may find Sarah-Sofie Boussnina gorgeous to look at but by now Hanne irritates the hell out of me.

The fire doesn’t spread. Dag appears out of nowhere with a fire extinguisher, not that anyone asks what he’s doing down there, and puts the flames out but all the rest of the information Hanne frantically wanted to search is destroyed. So, suddenly, Hanne goes all big sister on her big sister, sympathizing about how hard it is for her and how she’ll always be there to support her, which frankly sounds like the actresses have switched their lines and the director hasn’t noticed.

Anyway, it gets Mette so confused she walks off to wash her face and stare at herself in the mirror in Johan’s bathroom, which is why it takes her ages to spot that Lippi isn’t sleeping, he’s dead. Actually, are you sure? He was suffocated under a pillow after some struggle, yet his face hasn’t gone purple nor his eyes bugged out or any of that. He looks like he’s sleeping, and the not-breathing bit is practically indistinguishable, especially to a trained nurse…

And speaking of implausible reactions to violence, Hanne’s response to the burned cellar room is to wander off in search of Jostein, last seen enduring the crunching fists of brother Dag in a temper, and now shirtless, displaying old back scars and, when he turns round, a very pale smear of red just under his nose. No bruising, no lumps, no black eyes, no puffiness, no bloody credibility at all.

Meanwhile, Johan’s distraught at his brother’s death, on top of his engagement having lasted about nineteen-and-a-half hours and Mette having promised him that the impaled arm was nothing to worry about. Poor Mette. At least she’s prompted into examining the body at last, having previously, like all trained nurses, jumped to an assumption about the cause of death. Lippi was strangled, she concludes, though she becomes the first trained nurse on TV for years to talk of tiny burst blood-vessels in the eye instead of patrichial haemhorraging.

Who could have done this? Well, the moment Johan sits down on the bed, he puts his hand on a girl’s gold bracelet. One that he recognises…

There’s an actual moment of good, unobtrusive acting from Anna Astrom as Elin, when Johan comes to confront her. Without attention being drawn to it, her first movement is for her hand to go to the bare wrist, encircling it. That’s her last contribution: once Johan produces the necklace, she breaks down, starts crying, sobs about the red eye and the ‘kill or be killed’, and Johan strangles her.

That’s four down of the original party of eight but don’t worry, we haven’t finished yet. Hanne, who is seriously getting up my nose, is still fixated on Mikkhel and wants to call another seance, with Jostein and Frank. Mette’s in the cellar, following Dag,who’s carrying rotator fans down there. Which is where the banal little explanation is revealed that has me reinstating Krime to the heading above: Dag’s mysterious secret is that he and his submissive little brother are growing bumper crops of marijuana down there. Ye Gods.

Mette films it all on her cameraphone, and races off upstairs to blow the gaff. Hanne doesn’t want to look because, as Johan so neatly sums it up, it blows her obsession out of the water: every element of the ‘ghost story’ including the ‘kill or be killed’ translation has been fed to her by her pretty boy Jostein, to wind them up.

And Johan’s brother has been killed because of a ghost hunt. Full of righteous fury, Johan leads Frank down to the cellar and the weed-crop to settle things with Dag with his bare hands, which is a fucking stupid thing to do because Dag settles it with a knife, stabbed into Johan’s side, several times. Frank breaks and runs with Dag pursuing him with the knife. he catches up with him in the corridor, just as Hanne comes out of the room, and cuts his throat. So now we’ll never know what it was that Frank had done that warranted suicide-by-snowdrift.

That’s six down, and it’s very shortly to be seven. Hanne backs away only to be brought up short by Jostein emerging from the cellar, carrying Dag’s gun, which he raises and points at her face. Tears begin to roll, in slow motion, down her perfect face. Dag comes up behind her, raises his arm to stab her. We close up on Jostein as he fires the gun.

And cut to Hanne, standing there without any blackened holes in her face. With Dag, arm still raised, but looking a touch discombobulated. Because, even though Jostein was holding the gun out perfectly level at shoulder-height, he’s managed to shoot his brother in the stomach. From which, in defiance of all pulp and medical responses to a gut-shot, he dies in less than twenty, slow-motion seconds.

After which, given that there’s a whole episode left, the series decides that it wants to both have its cake and eat it, we cut back to the playroom. It’s door slides shut without anyone touching it, and a mysterious red light starts to play on the desk, ooga booga!

Do I really have to watch part 8? Well, since you asked so nicely…

At least there was one good thing about the final episode, or two if you count a near repeat of the snow mountain shot: there can’t be a second series.

The closing scene of episode 8 was supposed to be a twist, a classic reversal, a moment of deep horror, but it was none of these things because, after episode 7, Black Lake had completely lost all capability to surprise. When absolutely anything can happen, because the story has gotten out of hand, nothing is of any surprise.

We start with poor Mette, finding blankets with which to cover last episode’s dead, except for strangled Elin, who’s left under the bed with all the indignity remaining. And except for Johan too, since his body is not where it fell.

On the remote chance that you may still care, Johan’s life has been spared, temporarily, because all but one of Dag’s multiple stabs were turned by what looked suspiciously like a cigarette case, which put a twist on an old, old extract from the Cliche Drawer. He staggers out the long way, bandages himself in one of the disabled cars, and looks in the mirror, to discover… the Red Eye! Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo.

He’s not the only one. Hanne still wants a seance to contact Mikkhel, and Mette, instead of losing all patience and slapping her silly, agrees. This time, they get the Swedish for ‘Brother’ and ‘Murdered’, which sends Hanne head over heels, literally, from which she recovers with the most popular local malady. She’s already confessed to Jostein that she actually killed little brother Jacob, the trauma of which has dogged her all series: when their boat capsized in the storm, he tried to cling to her arm and she pushed him off to drown.

So, once she sees her eye has gone, she locks herself in her room to protect Mette and Jostein then, when they force their way in with Dag’s knife, she’s gone through the window and is wandering off to do a Frank-esque suicide-by-snowdrift, except she comes back, having met Jacob and promised him she’d survive.

This is now Hanne-with-a-purpose, Take-Charge-Hanne. She leads them on a home invasion of Erkki’s dwelling to find links between him and Mikkhel, because she’s seen him drive away, first thing, on the only functioning snowmobile, except that he hasn’t, he’s sitting there in the dark with a shotgun, letting them roam about for about five minutes before he rounds them up and gunpoint and chucks them out.

So who drove off on the snowmobile? Erkki can’t have sneaked back on it, since it’s never found and anyway, he’s got a fully functional pick-up truck no-one’s taken into account when looking for non-sabotaged vehicles. Nope, loose end, waste of time.

Everybody back to the playroom and those prophetic kids drawings of yesteryear. The new Determined Hanne, little miss Sherlock Holmes, turns the one she thought was about a door on its side and realises it means an underfloor micro-cellar, in which she, after a determinedly silent hunt that annoyed the very fuck out of me, discovers the suspiciously intact body of Mikkhel, which doesn’t appear to have lost any flesh in the last nearly sixty years.

They’re taking it upstairs to release it, and end the curse, when Erkki arrives, with that shotgun, and commands them all back. Mikkhel’s going nowhere. It’s final exposition time: Erkki’s father was the eugenicist Dr Lundqvist, only Erkki was a bastard from a Sami (Lapp?) mother and Mikael a pure blood Aryan. Lundqvist forced them to fight, to prove his Aryan son the superior, but Mikael failed him, refused to kill Erkki, and for that refusal was strangled by his father.

They’ve learned too much, they must be killed, except that Johan appears behind him at that moment, deus ex machina, with Dag’s gun in Erkki’s ear. Everybody out, Hanne once again carrying Mikkhel’s body, and Johan bars Erkki in the hidden room, but not before delivering the courtesy shot in the belly, of which Erkki is so unmannerly as to not die instantly.

But, wait! No sooner are we in the hall than Johan orders Jostein to his knees. Johan has accepted the curse at last, for no other reason than that, well, he just has. He’s gotten rid of it by shooting Erkki, now he’s going to save his darling Hanne by getting her to stab Jostein with Dag’s knife. She refuses. Johan sticks his gun in Jostein’s neck. Hanne picks up the knife and, in a move of utter predictability, stabs him through the heart. Johan, I mean.

It’s over. At long last, it’s over. The curse is laid to rest by committing Mikkhel’s body to a funeral pyre in the forest, at which Hanne and Jostein hold hands. The next morning, they pile into Erkki’s pick-up and drive away, safe and sound and free, survivors.

But there’s a final piece of cake to be eaten and kept. We cut to dying Erkki, shuddering in the cellar. Suddenly, the scene is transformed into the past. Mikael comes bounding in, looking for his little brother, who is drawing. Drawing a car, with three happy faces in it. Wait… how many people does Hanne, Jostein and poor Mette add up to? Shall we finish the drawing now, says Mikkhel, and little Erkki starts swirling red crayon around in circles all over it…

One last scene, the pick-up driving down a snowy road. Soon, they’ll get a signal on Hanne’s mobile phone. Jostein’s driving. He removes his sunglasses. In the rear-view mirror, we can see that he has one red eye…

Basically, I liked looking at Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, and Anna Astrom and Aliette Opheim were good to look at too. Mathilde Norholt was deliberately played down in this series: as the only competent one, with no romantic interest, she had to play plainish. But there’s no hiding the fact that what started out as a potentially entertaining if hardly original story turned into an uncontrolled monster that committed the unforgivable sin of not even being so-bad-it’s-good.

I’ve no idea yet what’s due to succeed this next Saturday evening, but unless BBC4 has gone mad and leased Sky’s Fortitude, it cannot possibly hope to be as bad as this.

Oops. Have I just said the wrong thing?

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake Parts 5 & 6


Now just imagine her looking creepy…

It’s traditionally in the third week of a four week drama that the phrase ‘The plot begins to thicken’ is pulled out of the Cliche Drawer, but we all know that Black Lake/Swastjon is too thin gruel for that ever to be possible. Nevertheless, in admidst the increasingly shambolic events of parts 5 and 6, one substantial thread came out that threatens to add a certain distinction to the overall tale.

However, let’s get back to the mechanics of things, shall we? When we last saw the lovely, but starting to get ever so slightly irritating Hanne she was just going in to the mystery cellar room, flashlight in hand. It’s a useful flashlight, preventing us from seeing more than bits at a time, but what we saw was interesting. An office, with a desk, a really old typewriter, shelves of learned books, storage racks for boxes and files, a host of developed prints, hung on strings. And old fashioned file cards marked Ratsbiologika. I would work out the biology bit myself, but it took the invaluable Mette to explain to us monolinguals that it meat Race Biology: Eugenics.

That immediately changed the game. The resort used to be a clinic: when Hanne gets Mette to go down there with her, in part 6, the stuff they gather, and the prison-like child room the former finds, round the back, adds up to a disgusting picture of Nazi-approved experiments, ‘proving’ Aryan children to be inherently superior to ‘sub-human’ races. Hanne remains convinced that she is channeling a victim of whatever has been going on down there: Mikkhel.

But that’s for the future. In the short term, a door slams and, in the dark, she’s attacked from behind by a clearly larger assailant trying to strangle her (though for that detail we have to rely on Hanne after she escapes, because the Director is clearly going for a representation of Hanne’s panic so we never actually see what the fuck is going on).

Nevertheless, despite being about seven stone wet through, escape Hanne does, into the below-stairs labyrinth, eventually getting out into the -45 degree night via a ventilation shaft, which she secures behind her by using a thin gold bracelet as a padlock.

Once she is let inside, Hanne says the first intelligent thing anyone’s said thus far, I want to go home. Loving and sympathetic fiance, Johan, immediately agrees and rushes her back to civilization, safety and reliable central heating. Ha, ha, of course he doesn’t. Instead, he gives the same old, let’s all get together, talk this through and decide what to do, the unspoken part of which speech being that that decision will be what Johan wants all along, namely to stay so he can buy this resort.

There is also a serious reason for postponing the decision: fatty Osvald is missing. Hanne’s attacker, who’s probably creepy Erkki, is trapped in the cellar, whose only two exits are barred from outside (nobody seems to wonder whether a) he might have got out through the door before Hanne reached the resort from outside or b) whether there might be a third exit). So everyone, Hanne included, goes searching outside.

Which is when the exasperated Johan, lord and master of all he sees, gives her the Talk. You know, the incredibly stupid one, the I know better than you what to do about your traumas despite never have undergone them, or any other trauma come to that Talk. Just pull yourself together and get over seeing your little brother die in front of your eyes, it’s all in the past and you’ll make life a lot easier for me when you do.

Crass doesn’t begin to describe it. Poor bereaved Frank, meanwhile, has also had enough of hanging round a place of trauma, and is packing his car. Hanne and Mette decide to go with him, right now, in the dark, so what, Mette driving. They go grab their things. Such things do not include: ring, engagement: one.

It’s all go. Our sensible three drive carefully along the snow-packed road, getting out of it, that is, until Hanne sees an imaginary little boy in the middle of the road, grabs the wheel and runs them into a ditch, from where they can’t get the car free, condemning them to wait until dawn in the hope they don’t freeze to death first.

In another place, not a million miles away from Crewe Junction, Dag of the snowmobile brothers decides it’s time to show the Stockholm lot that he’s serious about whatever nefarious plan their presence is going to interrupt, about which we still know the square root of fuck all, except that this mystery is getting very tiresome. He brandishes his gun. Wimpy brother and Hanne-snogger Jostein gets him to agree to give him two hours to sort it all out without the kind of things that happen when guns get brandished: yeah, two hours at 6.00am when it’s still dark: that ought to be ample time.

And at Black Lake, it’s all go. Osvald’s still missing, but only lover Lippi is still concerned about it. Lippi, by the way, is Johan’s brother, as part 6 will have Johan confirm, by telling Lippi that he is his, that is, Johan’s brother, a fact of which Lippi is already aware but the audience, or at least this branch of it wasn’t. Absolutely nobody has even begun to draw a line between point A: a mysterious person tries to kill Hanne in the cellar and point B: nobody’s seen Osvald since before Hanne went down the cellar.

Anyway, Lippi at least decides that if Osvald isn’t anywhere they’ve searched and they haven’t searched the cellar, his lover might well be down there. He climbs in from outside, removing Hanne’s bracelet/padlock. And at the foot of the cellar stairs, after retracing all Hanne’s steps as if he had been provided with a map of her course, he finds Osvald. Or rather, Osvald’s body, cause of death undefined. Which causes him to back away, fall over and impale his arm on a metal rod.

Upstairs, Johan, feeling a touch upset at his fiancee chucking the ring back at him, is talking to the only one left, the doll-faced Elin, his ex-girlfriend to whom he once gave one of those half-a-hearts that lovers symbolically trade, only to find that she wears it to this day, as a charm bracelet that neither he nor anyone else has noticed in the best part of five episodes so far despite the fact she never takes it off. And they’re about to snog when someone closes the Cliche drawer on the writer’s hands, chucking in a power cut.

Then they hear Lippi’s screams about being in the cellar, and bleeding, and being in pain, ow, owwww, ooch that smarts. So Johan decides it’s at long last time to whip out his chopper. No, he’s not gone back to Doll-face, he’s been carrying an axe around with him all this time, in his overnight bag, and he’s going to wield it.

Episode 6 at least has the merits of taking place in daylight, so we can at least get in some stunning shots of the scenery. Hanne starts walking back to Black Lake but is picked up by Jostein on his snowmobile. He can take only one extra passenger, so he runs Hanne and Mette back to the resort, and goes back for Frank. Frank, who is going all mysterious: as soon as he’s alone he’s mumbling, “What have I done?”,  he’s scraped the Swedish for Forgive Me into the ice on the car window and he’s stumbling off into the deep-laden snow, stripping off the odd garment here or there along the way, with the intention of freezing himself to death, before Jostein saves him. And not even a fingertip’s worth of frostbite to show for it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… sorry, the resort, Dollface Elin, who’s supposed to have gone for the First Aid kit but who’s done some quasi-drunken reeling to indicate that she might not be in full possession of her body, sees Hanne and Mette arriving and promptly locks the door against them, a dirty trick she will deny knowing anything about when challenged.

Mette, without whom things would have ground to a halt long ago, takes charge of getting Lippi unimpaled, into bed and cleaned up, before identifying the race-card and visiting the cellar. Apart from the nonsense about possession and dead Mikkhel she seems to be taking this discovery even more seriously than Hanne.

Our girl is having a couple of serious conversations. First, she rips Johan a new one about how he’s never listened to her, and that he even didn’t propose to her but rather to the woman he wanted her to be. Then she basically reverses her entire characterisation by denying to Elin that there’s any such thing as a curse applying here.

Elin’s concerned, you see, about this ‘Kill or be Killed’ stuff. Jessan got the red-eye, tried to kill Frank and then, when she didn’t, she died. Osvald got the red-eye, and when he didn’t kill anyone, he died. Stuff and nonsense, cries Hanne, and walks away. The problem is that you and I and the rest of the viewers know that back in episode 5, Dollface Elin came down with the red-eye, although hers wasn’t so much the bloodshot look, but rather that all the white of her eye had turned an even, pale red, like a filter. Boy, she just happens to be carrying some bloody good eyedrops though. That was lucky.

But Elin is not convinced. Kill or be Killed. Two red-eye victims didn’t kill, and died. Elin doesn’t want to die. So she steals a chopping knife from the kitchen and starts creeping up on the sleeping Frank, until Johan turns up. Amazingly, he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything odd about approaching a helpless sleeper with a knife like that, nor does he even ask her why she happens to be carrying it.

Three things left: despite Jostein having save three people’s lives, the jealous Johan tells him to get out, incurring a threat from Dag about touching his brother. Then, Jostein having been given two hours to get the Stockholm lot out and instead having spent twice that amount of time saving half of them, Dag beats his little brother to a pulp.

And Elin, having failed to get Frank, puts a pillow over Lippi’s face and sits on it until he stops kicking.

And Hanne and Mette go back to the cellar office to gather more evidence, only someone’s set it on fire…

It’s Explanation Time next weekend, dear people. How many of them will actually be worth it? And can we have even more snowscapes instead of story, please?

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake Parts 3 & 4


It may not be much cop, but we can at least adjust the banner to correctly define Black Lake, now reaching its halfway mark, to the kind of programme it is.

Not being, by instinct or inclination, a horror buff, I don’t know quite to what extent this programme is observing all the tropes, but from my position of ignorance I can’t see anything of significance being left out, except the frequent violent and bloody deaths. We do have one in part 4, but it takes place off stage and the method remains undisclosed, although it at least observes one given: it is the seemingly promiscuous blonde what gets it first.

We left Jessan collapsing in a heap after screaming something about killing the child, which causes more than one member of the party to be concerned. Whilst she sleeps it off, massively, Frank goes through her bag, discovering a pillbox that the medical expert Mette identifies as being for schizophrenia and psychotics. After she wakes, Jessan confesses to killing a child: an abortion in Berlin five years ago, the root of the psychosis.

It appears this two are about more than the wild sex, they have genuinely fallen in love. That doesn’t stop more uninhibited sex, during which Jessan binds Frank’s hands with his dressing gown belt, hooks them up to the bedpost, straddles him, undoes his belt… and proceeds to tighten it around his neck as our part 3 climax.

The other person much concerned with the wild-haired Jessan is, of course, the already-disturbed Hanne. Sarah-Sophie Bouusnina may well be dead lovely to look at, no matter what arrangement she has her hair in, but she’s already starting to get on my wick with her obsession with the killings 20 years ago, her belief that the strangled children are trying to communicate with the house party, and the insistence on getting translated the mystery words ‘gaadet jaamet’ (sorry, no Scandinavian fonts on this laptop).

This involves using the effeminate Jostein, who interprets her constant appearances as evidence of overwhelming lust for him and who steals a kiss Hanne makes no attempt to refuse in part 3 and then, after being pushed away because she tells him she has a boyfriend and is engaged to be married, comes back for more in part 4 that Hanne offers quite enthusiastically (though she’s already enthusiastically shagged the pallid and superior Johan without taking her zipped-to-the-neck jacket off).

But Jessan comes to with no memory of anything, though that doesn’t stop her and Hanne suggesting a seance, which is eagerly greeted by everyone except the disbelieving Johan and Mette. Maybe they should have listened to this pair because, after the glass lights on the letter M, the candles blow out, Jessan screams, scratches Lippi’s neck and disappears into the secret basement.

Where she is found with a cut on her forehead whose provenance we don’t get to see until late in part 4.

For the moment, we get the strangulation scene, from which poor Frank is rescued when his feeble gasps for help are overheard by Johan and Hanne. Jessan, struggling in a frenzy, is overpowered and the belt used to tie her to the bedpost whilst she’s locked in (the Police are 30km away, on an emergency).

And Jostein’s turned up seriously late, with a translation of the mystery words: ‘Kill or Die’. Or, as a conscious Jessan explains to Hanne in the morning, whilst wriggling out of her bonds, ‘Kill or be Killed’. An external compulsion was driving her, put in her head by Mikkhel. When Johan and co arrives, she locks herself in her bathroom, and is then barricaded in. Her death, leaving aa look of horror on her face, is called suicide.

Now the most sensible things to do under all the circumstances is to hightail it back to Stockholm at a rate of knots. Mette’s had enough and wants out, and funnily enough so does increasingly barmy Hanne. But Johan refuses to believe in Hanne’s ghosts, and is determined to close his deal to buy Black Lake and talks everyone into staying.

We all know this isn’t going to be wise because caretaker Erkki, big bad snowmobile seller Dag and even Jostein want the gang to leave. And in a neat echo of the end of part 2, Mette, having seen Johan snog the pretty but under-used Elin now sees Hanne snog Jostein. And when she tries to talk her sister out of smashing her own future, Hanne starts getting all petty/sulky (until Mette confesses to a miscarriage, which in the circumstances comes over as a pointless detail).

So: a mysterious force keeps chucking a set of architectural plans at Hanne until she spots the discrepancy between the 1950 and 1995 cellar plans that reveals a secret room, Johan completes his deal and sacks Erkki (did he seriously think he’d be kept on after the way he’s behaved?), the cellar door’s conveniently open all of a sudden, Hanne finds the boarded off secret room: quick flashback to Jessan banging her head against the wood which the fragile Hanne strips off like it was paper, revealing… a door. The cellar door shuts above her, the door proves to be unlocked and not even in need of oiling, and Hanne goes inside…

Leaving me hoping, no doubt in vain, that it’s a gateway to a better programme than Black Lake has proved to be so far. The lovely Sarah-Sofie can only stave off snarkiness for so long, you know.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Black Lake Parts 1 & 2


Hanne

It’s been such a long time since there’s been any BBC SkandiKrime on which to comment, though on the strength of this week’s opening two parts (of eight), I am not at all sure whether Crime is the right category into which to put Black Lake (a pretty much literal translation of Swartsjon).

The last couple of efforts, Modus and Follow the Money 2, have not really been up to the standard I’d like, and on the evidence of the first week’s pairing, I’m not sure how Black Lake will pan out. Then again, now that the BBC i-Player demands registration to use, I have to get my episodes from other sources, which led to me watching a Part 2 whose English sub-titles were a mess to say the least, so that I’m not certain I’ve grasped all the subtleties.

But the series has three primary assets going for it on first acquaintance: more of the gloriously white Scandinavian forest, lake and mountain snowscapes, a leading character player by Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, a young lady of fair and delicately fine features and form, and a complete absence of total and utter idiots in any leading roles.

The show begins with a flashback to twenty years ago, a handcuffed man walking through a silent ski-centre, taken into a basement, where, his handcuffs unlocked, he goes off the rails, demanding “Where are they?” Jump twenty years to Stockholm, and we have a party of eight Scandinavians in their mid to late twenties, meeting up to climb into two Volvos and head out to this same, unused centre. My instant assumption was a Freddy Kroeger type set-up, and I may not yet be totally wrong.

Anyway, this octet are equally divided between attractive girl and attractive boy, though they’re not all necessarily couples. There’s Hanne and Mette, her sister, who is some kind of doctor, her boyfriend Johan, who is considering buying this disused ski-centre. There’s Elin, a girl neither sister likes nor trusts, for good reason it would appear, and there’s Frank, Johan’s friend, who has brought his new girlfriend, Jessan, who nobody’s met before, plus Lippi and Osvald. One’s got conjunctivitis in his right eye, which is relevant, and the other’s beefy and some sort of chef.

All of these things we glean from the first part, plus the fact that Henne is on medication for something, in respect of which Mette is constantly watching over her. Of course, we know for a fact that Hanne will cease taking her pills long before half way, and indeed that’s one of the last things in part 1, though I’m not going to start doing a cliche count on that.

By then, Johan has asked her to marry him, and Hanne has accepted, though their’s is the kind of relationship where they sleep together without the slightest suggestion of sex (unlike Frank and Jessan, who are at it like bunnies almost immediately). And whilst Johan appears to sleep naked, Hanne’s the kind of girl who goes to bed in long pants, white spaghetti strap top and her bra still on underneath it.

Incidentally, the announcement of their engagement is received with great joy and warmth on the part of everybody, except Elin, who looks like someone’s just shot her pet bunny.

And almost as soon as she’s agreed to make Johan the happiest man on earth, Hanne learns that he’s lied to her, albeit by omission. He knew that the reason the ski-resort never opened was because someone dies there. Not died: was murdered.

And strange things are happening. There are rhythmic metallic thumpings from the basement half the night, and no, it isn’t Frank, Jessan and their position of the next thirty minutes. Erkki, the aged, grizzled caretaker, looks like he would refuse to even admit there was a basement if the door wasn’t there right under his nose: too dangerous, he says, besides, I haven’t got a key.

And finally, for part 1, with the orthodox subtitles, there’s Dag and Jostein, snowmobile merchants renting a shed on-site, with a sinister plan of their own, and in Dag’s case a bad case of inferiority complex towards Stockholmers that he wants to take out with a knife fight with Johan.

Things start to get a little clearer in part 2, especially as Johan quickly makes us aware that delicate Hanne lost her younger brother Jacob, 10 to her 12, through drowning and has never gotten over it. Is that why she’s obsessing about this part murder? Insistent on finding out every detail? In this, she’s assisted by the willing Jostein (can’t possibly think why he’s prepared to run around for such an attractive woman, can you? Johan certainly isn’t starting to get suspicious, no).

We learn from the retired Policeman, Broman, that the victims were a family, mother, father, two children, each one strangled. Even the two children. It’s horrible but it’s not enough for Hanne. When Broman refuses to let her watch the interrogation video, she has the helpgul Jostein steal it for her so she can obsessively watch it. Helgerson, the killer who was never tried because he drowned himself, is clearly off his head. But he strangled two children, sitting them down side by side, letting them hold hands. One member of the audience isn’t prepared to let him off for that.

Hanne’s obsession is starting to get a bit nerve-racking, and there’s weird stuff starting to go on. First Jessan gets conjunctivitis – in her right eye – after a dream of having something sit on her chest. Then she starts sleep-walking, playing with the crayons in the playroom. Then Osvald goes down into the secret basement, but claims not to remember anything, because he was sleeping, and he’s got conjunctivitis – in his right eye. And Hanne’s convinced that the ski-resort is haunted by a mythical child intent on lives being sacrificed to it, and that the voices of the two strangled children are trying to speak to them.

Because Jessan, after popping an E, starts raving, shouting ‘I killed the children’.

That sort of disturbs everyone, with the possible exception of Elin, who takes the first possible opportunity of Johan’s distraction to kiss him. Thankfully, Hanne’s too busy watching that video again, but Mette has her eyes wide open…

Let’s see how next week develops. And after seeing young Ms Boussnina in both 1864 and The Bridge, I’m more than pleased to have three more week’s opportunity to look at her.