As published on The Finnish Film Foundation’s newsletter, May 2017.
Photo from Lake Bodom
This year's Scandinavian horror hit Lake Bodom is touring festivals at a hectic pace prior to its US release on May 18th. AMC Network's brand new genre flagship Shudder has high hopes for Taneli Mustonen's award-winning genre bender, fueled by rave reviews in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Screen Daily, to mention a few.
We spoke to director Taneli Mustonen after he just landed back home from the much-hyped Overlook Film Festival, set in one of horror's most iconic hotels, Timberland Lodge – the setting of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece The Shining.
“What an awesome experience! Like a little gem among festivals. The scenery, the people, the selection of exceptional films... just couldn't get enough of it! And even if I did, I could have just opened the door and hopped on my skis for a fun day in the mountains. Definitely one of my favourite festivals!”
Overlook festival / Photo: Taneli Mustonen
Ever since Taneli and his co-writer, producer Aleksi Hyvärinen launched Lake Bodom as a project in Cannes in 2014, Finland's first horror film in ten years has been garnering international attention. After being coined by Variety as "one of Scandinavia's most anticipated genre exports" even before it started shooting, the pressure to succeed has been evident. Now, after making a splash at the Finnish box office and selling to multiple territories such as Japan, China, Spain, Germany, France, Poland, UK, Australia and North America, it's time to ask Taneli what he thinks makes Lake Bodom click with so many audiences in various parts of the globe?
“I'm sure there are as many reasons as there are people. Personally I'm hoping they value our effort to bring something new to the genre, to freshen it up a bit”, Taneli says. “But most important, I'm just so grateful for all these opportunities for the film to travel and find new audiences. All of this is made possible by the long-term co-operation of a lot of different organisations and people, including the Finnish Film Foundation, as well as Nordic Film & TV Fund, The Nordic Genre Invasion, and others... We've received so much help and support along the way. It's unbelievably humbling, really."
Even though the film's festival run has taken him all around the globe ever since its launch at Sitges and BFI London Film Festival late last year, Taneli is still up for another jet lag.
“A couple of months ago we were at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where Lake Bodom was playing in the Midnighters section. And with our friends from Shudder and Film Constellation, our UK-based sales agent, we decided we should get together in New York to celebrate our U.S. release. One thing led to another, and now we're getting ready for a gala screening at the Scandinavian House in Manhattan – with a big bunch of dear friends from all around North America. Can't wait to show them the film!"
Director Taneli Mustonen / Photo: Petri Mast
Lake Bodom was the first feature for Don Films, the production company co-founded by Taneli and Aleksi. The boutique company built on the writing duo's original story concepts has now released its first finished products, and gained nominations for both Finland's national TV awards as well as the local Academy Awards. Last year, Taneli also released the successful sequel to his massively popular comedy feature The Reunion, produced by the prolific Finnish production conglomerate Solar Films. After a hectic few years, what do Taneli and Aleksi and their team at Don Films have next up their sleeves?
"Obviously, Lake Bodom's run doesn't end here. Even if our focus has lately been in North America, now we're also working really hard on our Asian distribution. Just received the first draft of our Japanese poster – loving it, by the way – and getting ready for our festival premiere in South Korea this summer. Our sales agent, Film Constellation, has been doing stellar work."
"As for next projects, we're now in financing phase with a couple of real cuties. That's pretty much all I can say at this point. But we're really excited to be working with whom we consider the best agents and managers in the business, ICM's Daniel Cohan and Magnolia Entertainment's Shelley Browning and their awesome teams. Shelley put it well – 'the dream machine runs on sweat'. In other words, a lot of work ahead!"