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.