October Horrorshow: Ragnarok

Ragnarok, the 2013 film from Norway, is not a horror movie. At first glance, it has all the makings. There’s a small cast, a remote locale, an abandoned Soviet military bunker, and there’s a monster. So this is a monster movie, then? Well, yes, but not so much. As it turns out, Ragnarok is a family adventure movie. What has the October Horrorshow come to? Have I exhausted my options to such an extent that I have to dip into other genres just to fill out a month? No, I do not. But I feel I have been deceived, and have to share.

When the internet recommended Ragnarok to me, it really did look like a horror/monster flick. An archaeologist, Sigurd Svensen, believes a location in the far north of Norway holds a treasure trove of Viking artifacts. He leads a team to the site and they discover that all the clues that led them there were actually warnings. Something…is there, and even the Vikings feared it. What a great setup for a monster flick. It lacks in all originality but it ticks off every box for some good old fun monster schlock. It’s been a long tine since something new came out of a monster flick, but that doesn’t matter. There are only so many ways to cook a steak. All that matters is that it’s cooked correctly.

I was looking forward to some blood and some gore, and, if the filmmakers were feeling frisky, maybe even a little gratuitous nudity. But, no. There was none of that. Director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose decided to rely on story and pacing, rather than shock, to tell his story. What a jip for the part of me that came into this film with expectations. But the critical part of me was satisfied. It’s curious that Ragnarok is such a tame movie, considering the subject matter, but Sandemose knew what he was doing.

There’s a logical pace throughout, featuring a sensible plot. The movie was made with pennies, but there’s nothing cheap about it. Except when it comes to the CGI. The film features a gigantic monster snake of some sort, and it appears that it was just too much for four million bucks to handle. That’s a shame, because the poor CGI on the monster is the only thing that mars this film. At least it doesn’t look stupid. Bad CGI is still far better than the plywood and foam rubber constructions that used to pass for monsters half a century ago. Somehow, though, I don’t think bad CGI will ever have the same camp value, but that’s a topic for another launch.

From top to bottom, the cast was capable and believable, meeting the minimum that audiences should expect from movies. That doesn’t sound like a rich endorsement, but trust me, if this group made their way into any Michael Bay flick the quality of the performances would be raised considerably. The cast of Ragnarok had no standouts, and it’s their very anonymity that makes their work believable and natural. I was never taken out of the film by the performances, but some of that surely had to do with the fact that I had never seen any of the cast before. Either way, they did their jobs.

Ragnarok is a good film, but I’m left to wonder if there’s a point to making a monster flick that is so sanitized. A grand total of two cast members bit the dust in this film, and neither of them died on screen. There was no blood. While it sounds disturbing that a film would need blood, Ragnarok proves that in some instances, a little gore is necessary to convey to the audience some visceral sense of the plight of the protagonists. It ended up being the lack of mess that took me out of the film.

Back to my statement about being deceived. I was expecting a horror flick that I could add to this month’s reviews. I only got sort of what I needed, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let that stop me. I didn’t spend an hour and a half with a film I intended to write a review for, only to not write a review. No freaking way. I watched this for the Horrorshow, and in the Horrorshow it shall go. Even if the damned thing had turned out to be a romcom, I would still have added it.