Magazine article Screen International

'Valley of Shadows': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Valley of Shadows': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

A young boy finds evil lurking in the woods in this atmospheric Norwegian chiller.

Valley Of Shadows

Dir/scr. Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen. Norway. 2017. 91 mins.

An entrancing Norwegian gothic fable told with haunting visuals and striking tonal assurance, Valley of Shadows turns childhood fears into a ruminative and resonant horror effort. Predicated around a mysterious spate of sheep slaughters during a full moon, and playing with loss and grief in its wander through sinister woods, it marks a strong debut for Norwegian writer/director Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, as well as an enigmatic and magnetic addition to the atmospheric Nordic fold.

Although the story stems from an original script, it boasts the air of a foreboding, Peter and the Wolf-esque fairy tale

Like noir, the horror realm has become one of Scandinavian cinema’s staples - and like many of the region’s best examples of both, Valley of Shadows has the potential to attract an audience. Premiering at Toronto, and certain to garner interest from genre festivals at a minimum, this is an alluring feature capable of parlaying its preference for moody 35mm-shot imagery and scant dialogue into further attention. Indeed, the quiet, evocative approach worked for Sweden’s Let the Right One In, and it could again here with the right support.

Although the story stems from an original script by Gulbrandsen and Clement Tuffreau (Sam Was Here), it boasts the air of a foreboding, Peter and the Wolf-esque fairy tale. This literary theme lingers over the feature in other ways, such as six-year-old Aslak’s (Adam Ekeli) drawings of people and monsters, and the complex illustrations his ten-year-old pal Lassee (Lennard Salamon) leafs through when announcing that a werewolf is responsible for the ravaging. They’re both telling inclusions; while its detailed sights are far more sophisticated than a boy’s scribblings, the movie is grounded in its young protagonist’s perspective.

Frequently spied peering at the world with curious but cautious eyes, through windows or doorways, from stairwells or behind barriers, Aslak is intrigued by the animal attacks, which local farmers chalk up to regular wolves. …

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