If you’re an indie filmmaker, the last thing you want to do is create a film that would be challenging even under the largest of budgets. You certainly wouldn’t want to make an 11th century Viking film with accurate costuming and supernatural elements. Unless your name is Karin Engman or Klas Persson–and that’s exactly what they set out to do with Draug.
Nanna is a young woman who was fostered by Hakon, a man with a violent past. Both are part of the growing trend of Christianity in the viking world of Sweden. When a missionary from their ranks disappears in the nearby forest, Hakon takes Nanna on a mission to find him. Together with a band of rough warriors who haven’t forgotten the old ways, they find that dark things still dwell in the deep forest of Sweden.
One of the first things to jump out at me about Draug is the aesthetic. It’s what I would describe as “80’s-esque”. You could slap the overall look onto a slasher film and people would be thrilled with the throwback sensibilities, but it isn’t my favorite. I would have preferred a more “dramatic” color grading, but it is clearly an artistic decision and one that you can’t honestly say is bad.
The next thing that really stands out in Draug is the costuming. Time and time again I’ve complained about costuming in period pieces. This might as well be the number one reason you shouldn’t go this route as an indie filmmaker. I don’t know how, but Draug kills it in this department. The clothing down to the footwear is accurate. Swords and axes look real and time accurate. Battle tactics are sound. There are no gaudy pieces of armour and the shields are wood. There is even a lantern device that I didn’t know existed in the period. I looked it up and sure enough,it does–just like the film depicts it. For the love of everything that is good about period pieces, there is even a scene where they light a fire using flint and steel!
Though the script for a movie like this may initially turn some people away, I would argue that the overarching story is a familiar one, just dropped in an unfamiliar story. The characters each give you a sense of their personality despite the fact that we don’t get to spend much time with each. Everyone is a mystery with only a few hints here and there to illuminate their history. Violence comes easy to our characters, but so do lighthearted moments. Life in 11th century Sweden is harsh, so death and humor are comfortable bedfellows.
Draug sports a great cast of characters. Everyone looks the way our modern minds want vikings to look. The lines on Thomas Hedengran’s (Kettil) face do an incredible job convincing you that he is an aged warrior. Despite this, some lines feel a bit flat. Reactions seem overly subdued. Perhaps it is meant to be that way to show us how fearless these warriors are. However, as an audience member, the lack of fear from our characters translates directly to my lack of fear. Once again, this is a minor issue that I quickly got over. And before we leave our actors, I want to give a shout out to the ones who worked in swift water, along with the stunt people. Having experience being in white water, I was incredibly nervous for the real-life individuals.
If it’s not evident by now, I really like Draug. It takes a bold group of people to take on something of this magnitude. To even nail one aspect of this would be a huge success. To string together 90 minutes of historically accurate viking horror is absolutely epic. In a perfect world, Draug would have been made with no financial strains. I would have loved if the film could have lingered on the draug designs and violence just a bit longer. They say leave them wanting more, and they did, so perhaps that’s just a job well done. If you love vikings, evil in the woods, or just passionate filmmaking, then you owe it to yourself to rent (or buy) Draug.
The Swedish viking horror Draug is being released on October 2nd on VOD (internationally) and Blu-Ray (Sweden).
Violence Comes Easy in Swedish Viking Horror ‘Draug’ [Review]