Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Remember You: A Ghostly Icelandic Procedural

The novel won an Icelandic crime fiction award, but the film is billed as horror all the way. That makes sense, because it has ghosts. It is also unusually moody and atmospheric. Angry spirits from the past make trouble for the present-day living in Óskar Thór Axelsson’s I Remember You (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and BluRay.

Freyr is a police psychologist, but he cannot cure himself or solve his most significance case. His young son Benni vanished without a trace, never to be seen again, but not from a lack of trying on Freyr’s part. Work should be a healthy distraction for him, but this particular case will not be good for anyone. It seems that half a dozen senior citizens had their backs carved with tiny crosses for months before they were finally murdered by someone familiar with the circumstances of their school yard bullying from some sixty years prior. Their chief victim, Bernódus would be the prime suspect had he not disappeared under mysterious circumstances decades earlier.

Soon, Freyr is having visions of a little ghostly boy. He assumes they are stress-induced hallucinations, but he is unsure whether it is Benni or Bernódus. Initially, it is unclear to us what any of this has to do with the married couple and their third wheel friend who are refurbishing a dilapidated farmhouse on a remote island, but all will be revealed in good time.

Thanks to cinematographer Jakob Ingimundarson and some richly detailed and distressed set design, IRY is one of the spookiest looking and most stylish horror films of the last few years. It might be somewhat divisive among genre fans, because it leaves many conspicuously large loose ends dangling untied. Nevertheless, the closure it allows is quite dramatic.

As Freyr, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson is quite believably and compellingly haunted, in a psychological sense, without resorting to any phony theatrics. He is Icelandic after all, as his name would indicate. Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir does not have so much to work with as his partner, but they still play off each other well. On the other hand, Anna Gunnudis Guomundsdottir freaks out quite vividly, at least by Scandinavian standards, as the wife in the ill-fated farm house story arc.

Axelsson’s previous feature, Black’s Game had its merits, but IRY represents a quantum step up. This is a powerfully eerie film with smart dialogue and a very human sensibility at its core. Highly recommended for fans of literate horror films and Scandinavian mysteries, I Remember You (with no reference to Johnny Mercer intended) is now available on DVD and BluRay.