Top 10 Horror Films from Scandinavia

In recent years, Scandinavian horror cinema has achieved mainstream international success. We take a look at the best inc. notable entries Trollhunter & the brilliant Let the Right One In

Rare Exports, A Christmas Tale, Scandinavian Horror

In Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale “we are presented with a demonic Santa who revels in dispensing punishment even more than rewarding the well behaved.”

As we hunker down for a long cold winter, the chill of the season feels pervasive. As horror fans, we’ve always been attracted to films that capitalize on winter anxieties, and these movies feel especially apropos this time of year. I’m talking about favorites like The Shining, Frozen, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. These and other films take the physical chill of winter and translate it into a symptom of fear.

“…Terror from the land of frigid fjords and brutal death metal…”

It should come as no surprise that Scandinavia, the land of frigid fjords and brutal death metal, produces excellent horror films, ones that capitalize on the pervasive chill of the region.

The films below represent some of Scandinavia’s best horror offerings.

Let the Right One In (2008) – Sweden

Let The Right One In, Film, tomas Alfredson, Vampires,Let the Right One In has emerged as a horror classic of the 21st Century. This unique spin on vampire mythology manages to be both chilling and incredibly endearing, an unlikely mix of horror and camaraderie. The relationship between young Oskar and the eternally pre-pubescent Eli is heartwarming enough to melt the snow around them yet the story is still loaded with complex and disturbing subtexts.

Hidden (2009) – Norway

Hidden, Scandinavian HorrorHidden (aka ‘Skjult’) was one of After Dark’s 8 Films to Die For in 2010; it revolves around a man with a troubled past who returns home to put affairs in order after the death of his mother. Staying in his childhood home stirs memories of death and abuse that creep from the recesses of his mind into physical reality. The lonely cottage in the middle of a frozen forest is a common trope in Scandinavian horror, as is the idea of confronting past traumas.

Dead Snow (2009) – Norway

Dead Snow, Scandinavian HorrorA rip-roaring send-up of the Cabin in the Woods subgenre of horror, this film will definitely appeal to fans of The Evil Dead franchise. But the crew of horny 20-somethings don’t battle possessing demons like Ash and company did; the villains of Dead Snow are Nazi Zombies. This film is an excellent horror-comedy that still packs some intense gore; the ending is a hysterical battle royal of unimaginable fury.

Cold Prey (2006) – Norway

Cold Prey, Scandinavian HorrorCold Prey is similar to Dead Snow in a few ways, as the action focuses on a group of 20-somethings who have traveled into the mountains for a day of snowboarding. But whereas Dead Snow is scary and funny, Cold Prey is completely humorless. When a member of their crew is injured, the pack seeks shelter in an abandoned/burned-out hotel resort that’s just as creepy and foreboding as the Overlook. It’s a slasher film done right in almost every respect.

Cold Prey 2 (2008) – Norway

Cold Prey 2, Scandinavian HorrorCold Prey 2 is a nearly impeccable sequel that’s very reminiscent of Halloween 2. The lone female survivor of the first film is taken to a hospital to recover from her traumas. Unbeknownst to her, the murderous mountain-man who killed her friends before being pushed into a frozen crevasse has also been brought to the hospital and he’s not nearly as dead as we all thought. The instant transition from the first film and the fact that all of the action takes place in a single night makes this an awesome continuation of the original story.

The Monitor (2011) – Norway

The Monitor, Noomi Rapace, Scandinavian HorrorNoomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, Prometheus) is completely captivating as a single mother in crisis. In hiding from an abusive ex-husband, she has become paranoid nearly to the point of agoraphobia. She treats her 8-year-old son like he is much younger, and even buys a baby monitor so she can listen to him while he’s sleeping. But when the monitor begins receiving troubling transmissions from somewhere else in the building, Rapace descends into a hellish and hallucinatory rabbit-hole.

Thale (2012) – Norway

Thale, Scandinavian HorrorThale is a modern retelling of the Norwegian myth of the Huldra, a seductive forest creature that can be kind or ruthless depending on how well she is appeased. A crime-scene cleanup crew makes a startling discovery in an abandoned basement: a beautiful woman with a cow’s tale who appears to have been a victim of medical experimentation. In many ways, Thale is an examination of science vs. nature, greed vs. compassion.

Trollhunter (2010) – Norway

Troll Hunter, Great Found Footage Horror, Scandinavian Cinema, You’ve probably noticed by now that this list is dominated by films from Norway, and Trollhunter is another recent export. Like Thale, Trollhunter uses Scandinavian mythology as a jumping off point. It’s a found footage film about a group of conservationists investigating animal maulings; they cross paths with a man they presume is a poacher only to discover he actually works for a government agency that monitors troll activity throughout the country. Yes, it all sounds preposterous, which is what makes the very real tension and suspense Trollhunter creates all the more impressive.

Sauna (2008) – Finland

Hidden, Scandinavian HorrorIn 1595, after a long war between Sweden and Russia, two brothers are trekking through swamps in Finland as they make their way home. Both are dogged by memories of atrocities they committed in battle. They stumble into a village whose ghostly inhabitants seem to comprise an isolated country unto themselves. On the outskirts of the village: an ancient pagan sauna that harbors otherworldly powers.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – Finland

Rare Exports, A Christmas Tale, Scandinavian HorrorRare Exports would make a brilliant holiday triple-feature along with Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a complete upturning of Santa Claus mythology or rather a return to Santa’s dark roots; this is not the jolly old fat man we’re accustomed too. Instead, we are presented with a demonic Santa who revels in dispensing punishment even more than rewarding the well behaved.

Written by Josh Millican

Have a favourite horror film from Scandinavia – tell us in the comments below…

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About the Author
Josh is the founder of Blood and Guts for Grown-Ups, a site dedicated to intelligent horror movie aficionados and is currently a staff writer for new horror site The Blood-Shed. Follow him on Twitter: @josh_millican

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  1. Owen Hughes Reply

    Expected to have seen a sum total of 0 on this list but surprisingly proud that I can say I’ve seen (& liked) 5 of them!

    • Owen Hughes Reply

      yes I must check out Cold Prey at some point

  2. Jade Reply

    I love Nordic scares! I’m surprised the Cold Prey films haven’t enjoyed the same sort of international success as Trollhunter. Let The Right One In is exceptional.

  3. Ebbe Iversen Reply

    I am Danish, not Swedish, but would still vote for “Let The Right One In”. It’s brillant.

    • Ebbe Iversen Reply

      I’m embarassed that there’s not one single film from Denmark on the list, but I have to admit that it’s fair enough.

      • Josh Millican Reply

        I enjoyed Valhalla Rising from Denmark, but it just wasn’t quite a horror movie.

      • EVA Reply

        Room 205 was horror to mee

  4. Al Robinson Reply

    Now THAT’s digging deep. Haha! I’ve only even heard of Let the Right One In. Curious about Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

    • Jaina Mistry Reply

      Rare Exports is a fab film. Twisted and dark, but it’s got that Scandinavian humour in it!

  5. Jackson Reply

    Looks like I have a new “alternative” Christmas film to watch. Thanks.

  6. Ted Davis Reply

    Great list of modern Nordic horror. Sauna and Thale are well worth seeing.

  7. The Filmaniacs Reply

    “Dead Snow” is a fantastic “Zombedy”.

  8. Greg Pearson Reply

    Noomi Rapace is brill in The Monitor. I’ve only seen three on this list. Thanks for the recommendations.

  9. ArchE Reply

    Discussion of Scandinavian horror only encourages strange images from my brush with Norway’s strange, often mystifying, and always bonkers attempts at horror. Yes, Hidden is a good representation of the country’s predilection with the bizarre but I would suggest anyone wanting a real eye opener should seek out Reinert Kiil’s Hora (otherwise known as The Whore). It has few redeeming qualities and not a unique bone in its brutalised body (given that it’s an even more violent updating of I Spit On Your Grave) but is worth seeing if only to see just how much carnage a hardcore horror fan can take before throwing up. My guess is… MORE THAN ME!

    Pål Sletaune Naboer (Next Door) and Pål Øie’s Villmark are also worth checking out – this time because they are actually quite good!

    Sweden has some better horror films though – even some classics – for example Ingmar Bergman’s Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) and of course the Swedish/Danish co-production Haxan would be a good addition to this list.

    • Josh Millican Reply

      Thanks for all the great suggestions ArchE. Looks like I’ve got some homework!

      • ArchE Reply

        Don’t watch The Whore on a full stomach!

        • Andrew F Reply

          The Whore really isn’t worth anyone’s time. If you fancy an hour of rape-revenge just re-watch I Spit On Your Grave.

  10. Dan Grant Reply

    Really good list. I too have seen more of these than I thought I would have. Dead snow is my fave on here but Trolls is really good as well. I’m so thankful Dan decided to do this feature. There are so many great horror films from around the globe.

  11. crashpalace Reply

    Excellent list

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks! Do you have any other recommendations?

      • klownz Reply

        Frostbiten (Sweden , 2006) springs to mind, kinda has the 30 Days Of Night thing going on.

        • Andrew F Reply

          Frostbiten is very good. Try The Cellar too.

      • crashpalace Reply

        Not offhand, but you covered a lot of great ground. Still have to see THALE.

      • Josh Millican Reply

        “Mara” is a good psychological thriller (house in the middle of nowhere, confronting past traumas) from Sweden, very recent, with a twist I guarantee you won’t see coming. “Valhalla Rising” from Denmark is a hallucinatory fever dream and a violent period piece.

        • Andrew F Reply

          Have you seen Nightwatch, Josh. That’s a good one. Good choices to include Thale, Sauna, Rare Exports and Let The Right One In on your list.

  12. Callum Reply

    Thanks for the top picks Josh. I’ve only seen Let The Right One In (I suppose everyone says that) but Trollhunter has been on my radar and I’ve heard about Thale and Dead Snow so I’m going to have to check them out.

    • Andrew F Reply

      You’ll want to check out Thale sooner rather than later. I also recommend Nightwatch. As you enjoyed Let The Right One In, try The Visitors.

  13. Andrew F Reply

    Some of my faves…

    10. Marianne (Sweden)
    9. The Visitors (Sweden)
    8. Evil Ed (Sweden)
    7. Sauna (Finland)
    6. Rare Exports (Finland)
    5. Epidemic (Denmark)
    4. Next Door (Norway)
    3. Nightwatch (Denmark)
    2. Thale (Norway)
    1. Let The Right One In (Sweden)

    • Josh Millican Reply

      I’ve heard good things about Next Door. It’s on my “Must Watch” list.

  14. Rory Fish Reply

    Not seen many of these but having really enjoyed Hidden I think I’ll have check out the rest of this list.

  15. Vicci28 Reply

    I thing night watch are missing from the list. What about the Whore (Hora). Norwegian rape-revenge film. It´s really dark and cruel. I think it´s better then I spit on your grave.

  16. Paul Green Reply

    Dead Snow is crazy but I absolutely love it!

  17. Kim Reply

    Watched Rare Exports for the first time this Christmas and loved it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  18. Kaj Roihio Reply

    There’s a Finnish Classic from 1952 called White Reindeer. It’s a bit forgotten now, but it won The Golden Globe and an award in Cannes the year it was released.

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