The premise for Frostbite was irresistable: vampires on the loose in Lapland, where the sun doesn't shine for a full month in winter. The old "wait until dawn, then they'll have to retreat" tactic wouldn't work. Then one of the Fantastic Fest programmers described the film to me as "this year's equivalent of Night of the Living Dorks," one of my favorite films from last year's festival, so I knew I couldn't miss Frostbite. I was so pleased that the movie lived up to and even exceeded my expectations: it's a better-paced movie than Dorks, and blends horror and comedy effectively.

The pre-credit opening sequence is set during WWII, when soldiers seek refuge from a snowstorm in a cabin that turns out to be vampire-infested. The teaser establishes suspense for the rest of the film, set in contemporary times during the "polar night" season. Annika (Petra Nielsen) and her teenage daughter Saga (Grete Havneskold) move to Lapland so Annika can work with famous genetic researcher Gerhard Beckert (Carl-Ake Eriksson). No one quite understands what Beckert is doing, so one of the young interns (Jonas Karlstrom) steals a few of the pills Beckert is giving his comatose patient, an action the intern soon regrets. Meanwhile, a mysterious death in town is being investigated, in which the victim had two puncture wounds on his neck. We all know what that means, even if the police and the coroner do not. But the bulk of the story involves the younger characters: Saga, who is rather introverted, meets a wild and crazy girl at her school, Vega, who is up for anything. She invites Saga to one of those parties thrown when parents are out of town, and Vega rashly promises the party's host that she'll provide some illicit refreshments. Vega's friend Cordelia is dating the intern, Sebastian, who is meeting her parents for the first time at a special dinner. Frostbite cleverly manages to entwine all the characters in the film into one big, funny, occasionally gory, and suspenseful tale.

Frostbite has a wonderfully skewed sense of humor. In one scene, we see the silhouette of a man with a stake in his hand, approaching a hospital patient ... until the light changes and we realize it's just a pointy vase, which he sets on a table. One brief but hilarious joke played on the fact that when an inexperienced teenage boy tries to make out, he often looks like he's devouring his partner's face. The scenes with the teenagers incorporate a number of American cultural references, especially as one-liners. The young people throw around a lot of English-language slang and quote The Empire Strikes Back and the Lord of the Rings series (in English).

The character of Sebastian provided many of the movie's funniest moments. Sebastian's colossally bad decisions, and the problems they cause him, could practically be a film in and of itself. His interaction with various pets and animals is priceless. Saga, on the other hand, seems to have very little personality considering she's a main character, but at least this makes her a good foil for her crazy friend Vega.

I was disappointed in the full-body "super-vampire" special effects at the end of the movie, which looked too obviously like a costume. Fortunately, we didn't see the entire vampire in close-up for very long. Overall, the facial vampire effects are quite believable, especially when characters suddenly and inadvertantly transform into vampires. The movie is relatively restrained in its depiction of blood and gore, although you have to expect a certain amount of blood and violence from a vampire horror flick.

Frostbite ends somewhat abruptly, without the sense of resolution that we often expect in movies. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to leave the door open for a sequel. However, the slightly weak ending doesn't undermine the movie as a whole. My favorite horror films incorporate humor throughout while managing to hold suspense or fright, and Frostbite works very well as this type of movie.
CATEGORIES Reviews, Cinematical