VIKING WOLF. Netflix still fascinated by Nordic myths [Review]
The mythical figure of the werewolf does not appear only in Norse mythology, although it is strongly present in it. After Netflix showed Troll to the world at the end of last year, the streaming tycoon again reached for the mythical creature that terrorizes Norway – this time not Oslo, but the fictional town of Nybo, where lycanthropes sow terror and death. And again we got a horror film with a temperature corresponding to the Norwegian climate – gloomy, cold and … completely unengaging.
I have the impression that after a short period of time around autumn 2022, when Netflix succeeded in several film projects, we are returning to the status quo, i.e. the general Netflix film misery. Although the Los Gatos platform is regularly successful in the field of series, they are exceptionally lacking in intuition in the field of feature-length entertainment. Most films marked with red N present a level similar to productions that used to be called “direct-to-video” (today more “straight-to-VOD”). To put it simply, these were films that did not have the quality to justify taking the risk of theatrical distribution, but at the same time they had something that did not allow them to be condemned to complete non-existence. In this way, some titles gained quite a lot of publicity and brought profits, but this was in the “pre-streaming” era – today, SVOD platforms receive a lot of film crap that would have no chance for theatrical distribution. Is the Viking Wolf just such a title?
Analyzing the individual components of this film, it is difficult to answer this question in the negative. Stig Svendsen, the director of Viking Wolf, is an artist with a negligible output – he has several feature films to his credit, including the English-language Elevator (2012), but all of these productions are insignificant even on the scale of a rather modest Norwegian cinema industry. Sometimes, however, it happens that an inconspicuous director can gather a decent cast – but this is not the case of Viking Wolf. It is true that Liv Mjönes, who plays the main role of the police officer Liv, can boast of some recognition and even a performance in Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019), but it is impossible to consider her a leading Scandinavian actress. That’s even harder to say for the other leading actress, Ella Rhiannon Müller Osborne, who plays Liv’s daughter, Thale – with just eight appearances over the past five years. Okay, but if not the director or the cast, then maybe in the “Screenplay” field we’ll find an interesting name? Not exactly: Stig Svendsen himself is partly responsible for the plot, but an interesting fact is that the co-writer of this project is Espen Aukan, the man responsible for, among others, for the aforementioned Netflix’s Troll. And that’s not the worst recommendation.
In practice, however, it turns out that Viking Wolf is a story that smacks of cliché. Police officer Liv Berg, her partner and two teenage daughters move to provincial Nybo. Thale, one of them, accidentally finds herself in the epicenter of a tragic event – one of the local girls is attacked and kidnapped by an unknown monster, which in the process injures Thale. Meanwhile, her mother investigates a beast terrorizing the town, and her investigation is aided by William (Arthur Hakalahti), a university professor knowledgeable about the anatomy and habits of wolves. However, the question remains whether the monster haunting Nybo is in fact an ordinary wolf … Doesn’t it sound revealing? Watching Viking Wolf, I had strong associations with The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) by Jim Cummings, a surprisingly successful independent horror, which, however, complemented the elements of horror cinema with a specific humor. Svendsen’s film is so terribly serious that… it’s hard to take it seriously. There is no room for irony or wink at the viewer – there is only a sense of danger and moral dilemmas.
And yet, the werewolf would be viewed completely differently if Viking Wolf had some distance to himself, if with the introduction of the werewolf concept into the script, the main characters were allowed a bit of disbelief, denial, the classic “after all, werewolves do not exist!”. Apparently, however, Scandinavian society, where Norse mythology is evidently alive and well, takes legends with the utmost seriousness, and this is how Svendsen and his associates approached the realization of Viking Wolf. It’s a pity, because it was probably material for something more climatic – unfortunately, the syndrome of “Netflix film misery” means that instead of gothic horror, we get clichéd horror cinema, which I will forget about much faster than, without trying, Wolf of Snow Hollow.