Evil Rising [Sauna] (2008) – Film Review

Guilt and despair plagues two brothers fresh out of war in the 16th century in Evil Rising...

Set in the sixteenth century, Evil Rising is a Finnish / Russian horror film that explores the depths of guilt and redemption. Far from the likes of Saw, Paranormal Activity and other modern day horrors, the film utilises its slow pace to absorb the viewer fully into the world it portrays before exposing the true horror that lies within.

Focusing on the relationship between Knut (Tommi Eronen) and Eerik (Ville Virtanen), two brothers ridden with guilt for their actions during the war between Finland and Russia, the film explores their growing obsession with the death of one girl in particular. After leaving her to die in a cellar, the brothers are increasingly haunted by her presence, with Knut seeing her at almost every turn. Tasked with marking new country borders along with a group of Russians they discover a mysterious village that poses unknown threats to their dwindling sanity.

Evil Rising exudes a style that is as beautiful as it is alarming. The crisp images that litter the film refine the statements it makes on the possibility of forgiveness whilst the contrast between the snowy landscapes and the vibrant blood of the victims is chilling. The presence of the strange concrete sauna in the midst of the historical setting aids the jarring effect of the film.

Through its riddled dialogue Evil Rising makes some interesting observations. In a discussion surrounding the physicality of memories a Russian notes that memories are made of the most expensive material in the world. The filth he attributes to such a form later pours from those afflicted with the indescribable horror of the unnamed village and may be seen as the film makers giving some form of explanation for the occurrences within the film. Whilst Eerik is afflicted with poor eyesight it is interesting that it is ultimately he who has the foresight to understand what lays in store for his brother and himself.

The riddles that infect the script, along with the endless bleakness, become wearing early on and, with no real explanation in sight, the film has its obvious flaws. Darkness’s ability to absorb over-powers any good intentions the characters have and all attempts at atonement are ravished by the strange affliction that sees those affected losing teeth, eyes and hope.

The strange occurrences in the village ultimately seem to reflect each character’s internal struggles with their own demons and, as the group begin to die curious deaths, they are left to ponder their sins. Knut gives in fully to the insanity of the village making for an harrowing unhappy ending that compliments the hereto bleak film. Well made but ill-explained, Evil Rising‘s overly depressing tone means that it is, unfortunately, a somewhat unfulfilling watch.


Best performance: Eerik.

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