Greg Goodsell has returned -- the film tonight in the Dungeon is THE WHITE REINDEER, Finland's most famous horror film! In spite of this cheerful poster, THE WHITE REINDEER has shape-shifting, themes of revenge, a lethal femme fatale and just a dash of vampirism thrown into the mix -- proceed at your own risk.
THE WHITE REINDEER is an unsung, elegant classic of international art horror! What is especially unsettling about this film is that a lot of it takes place in broad daylight against the white, snow-covered vistas in Lapland.
Here are the film's two lovebirds, Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen) and Aslak (Kalervo Nissilä). Say that ten times fast! Now, everything seems pert and hopeful, but believe you me, it all goes downhill very fast!
Aslak falls hard and fast for the charms of Pirita, the purtiest durn gal in his Lapland shepherd community -- but as we shall see -- Pirita has a dark, hidden side to her –
It turns out that she’s the illegitimate daughter of a witch who died in childbirth. In flashback, we meet her mother -- played by the same actress, taken in by those who pity her – where she gives birth and then passes away.
The two Laplanders get hitched in a boozy ceremony -- pledge their allegiance -- but if there weren't complications, there wouldn't be a movie now, would there?
Pirita waves goodbye to her beloved while he herds some reindeer to market -- and things get might darn lonely out in snow-covered Finland!
Pirita enlists the aid of a local shaman to cast a love spell for her, but everyone knows that such backdoor deals NEVER turn out for the best! The shaman casts his "runes" -- and Pirita will get her wish -- but at a VERY heavy price!
Pirita goes to a ghastly shrine and is instructed to kill the first thing she sees -- which is, natch, a white reindeer.
She kills the poor defenseless thing! Don't worry, she'll get hers!
AHHHHHH! Pirita is transformed into the ghastly, accursed white reindeer of Finnish legend! Economically suggested by a negative of the film!
Pirita regrets her decision -- but it's too late now, sweet cheeks!
In the guise of the reindeer, Pirita lures the town’s shepherds to their deaths and drinks their blood!
Wracked with guilt, Pirita tries to undo the curse --
But -- BOO! Pirita has had a taste of blood and wants even more! The vampire fangs in this film are only glimpsed and seen twice. Do we see a hint of director Mario Bava in the lighting and composition? Mighty impressive, as Bava was a long way off from directing the year this was filmed, in 1952!
Pirita's husband begins to suspect the worst -- do we also see a hint of the angst swirling around in such features around this period such as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, when we fear our loved ones because they are no longer what they used to be?
The couple then attend a wedding. Pirita as a newly blessed hell creature, is extremely uncomfortable. Gorgeous music heard in this scene. As I suggested to Eegah, I thought this feature would be a perfect fit for the Dungeon -- and he heartily agreed! Here's
just a taste of the haunting theme!
A beautiful young woman rendered otherworldly and alienated. I see more than just a dash of Barbara Steele going on here as well. Finland is a pretty isolated country with a limited film industry, so maybe the Finns were prescient about the state of coming fantastic cinema.
After the white reindeer has killed several people, the townspeople work on weapons -- said hell beast can only be killed by "cold steel," i.e. a spear fashioned without a furnace. The artisans in town get busy!
The hunters begin their quest to find the white reindeer as our heroine tearfully tries to hide in a snowbank!
In a last ditch attempt to reverse the curse, she returns to the shaman's house --
Too late! The evil sorcerer is as dead as a doornail! She's just going to have to ride this out to its deadly conclusion!
Transformed once again into the reindeer, Pirita leads her husband to a ravine in which he can land a fatal blow. This dovetails with some werewolf lore where the monster can only be killed by someone who loves them!
A tragic ending as Pirita dies for her transgressions and her husband is left with -- snow. Lots of it. But seriously folks, THE WHITE REINDEER calls to mind equal parts of Carl Dreyer and Igmar Bergman, as well as the future films of Canadian madman Guy Maddin! See this film at your earliest convenience.