In 1960, the murders at the Lake Bodom shocked the whole nation; at present, they are the most famous unsolved Finnish slayings known around the world. In short: On June 5, 1960, three teenagers were stabbed to death in a tent at the shore of Lake Bodom in Espoo.
Now the Finnish director and screenwriter, Taneli Mustonen, grabs the bridle and with the help of screenwriter/producer Aleksi Hyvärinen, attempts to ride in the blood trail of the mystery. But the horse falter.
The story interweaves around two teenaged girls, Iida (Nelly Hirst-Gee), Noora (Mimosa Willamo) and two teenaged guys, Elias (Mikael Gabriel) and Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä), who all after a few lies and such, jump in an old Volvo and drive to the Lake Bodom. The girls don’t know that Atte wants to “reconstruct the scene,”solve the mystery, perhaps hoping that the group would attract the killer back to the lake.
So far so good. Nelly Hirst-Gee shines in playing the role of Iida, a shy-ish secondary school girl, who struggles with her family and image problems. Mimosa Willamo is her bold best friend, Noora, protecting her, loving her . . . .
Gabriel and Helinhiemo Mäntylä carry their roles well, too. Especially Helinheimo Mäntylä creates a believable character of a teenaged weirdo, who’s into “strange things,” while Gabriel portrays a tougher street kid who seems to enjoy the forest like it was the backyard in Kontula.
Then the fun stops.
The film turns fast into a gore-fest. And Mustonen isn’t saving any blood. In fact, there’s more blood-bursting action than in most horror films shown on silver screen these days. The graphic content could cramp the film’s mass appeal, but that isn’t the only problem.
Even the praiseworthy acting can’t save the loose script, which attempts to give a glimpse into the characters’ lives with backstory, explaining slowly, in words of one syllable. Still, the script fails to create connections between the viewers and the characters on the screen. The story plays with a few twists and turns, but too much foreshadowing ruins most of the surprise.
The sound of the film relies on Dolby Atmos technology, which makes it the first Finnish film to use the 3D soundscape. The sound of the film however takes baby steps in using the astonishing surround sound of 73 speakers, which are scattered around the room of Finnkino’s Scape theater, at present the only cinema providing the tech. While the sound is powerful, branches crackle in the middle instead of behind your ears.
Mustonen is previously known for directing popular comedies like Luokkakokous, the Finnish version of The Hangover (2009), which he made strictly for a large public. With a title like Bodom, he may use the fame of the popular mystery to lure the spectators into cinemas again.
But in the end, they probably won’t thank him for it.
Bodom opens in cinemas August 19.