The Knocking - FrightFest UK Premiere
Director: Joonas Pajunen, Max Seeck
Starring: Inka Kallén, Pekka Strang, Saana Koivisto, Olga Temonen, Niko Saarela
Written by: Joonas Pajunen, Max Seeck
Produced by: Jukka Helle, Joonas Pajunen, Esko Rips, Max Seeck, Markus Selin, Hanna Virolainen
Cinematography by: Matti Eerikäinen
Original Score by: Tuomas Kantelinen
After the death of their parents, three disconnected siblings reunite at their childhood home to decide what to do next.
Nordic horror rarely ever disappoints and Joonas Pajunen and Max Seeck's debut feature film 'The Knocking' can now be added to that long list of impressively, atmospheric folk horror films from that part of the world involving a supernaturally infested forest, that starts off at a snails pace but packs a punch by the end.
Inspired by Finnish environmental folklore, 'The Knocking' follows Maria, Mikko and Mathilda, three siblings reunited approximately 15 years after the murder of their parents. After an agonisingly long legal gestation period, they are now finally tasked with making a difficult decision about the family home and surrounding forest which comes with the package. Although we don't know the intricate details of their relationship it is very obvious from the beginning that the three are not close at all and have barely spoke to each for quite some time.
After spending some time at their childhood home and attempting to reconnect the three are at loggerheads whether to sell or keep the home and land. Mikko and Mathilda want the money but Maria seems hesitant because she is fully aware the forest was held very close to her Mother's heart and by selling, it may mean the destruction of the entire woods. Maria and Mikko butt heads especially as they are the older siblings and both have their own secrets. The first half of the film is very much about the relationship between the three and about the memories that they may be suppressing.
The second half of the film unravels slowly and features flashbacks that helps to explain the family dynamic, particularly involving their parents marriage and their Father's harsh ways. There's not a lot of horror (until the end) but Pajunen and Seeck do a fantastic job of gradually building tension between the three kids and their connection to the house. Invaluable to the success of the creeping tension is Tuomas Kantelinen's magnificent noir-ish, Bernard Herrmann-esque score, which seems to play constantly throughout the film. Along with the score, the deliberately, meandering camera movements help to elevate the suspense and give an added element to both the eerie interior and gorgeous autumnal exterior locations, all beautifully shot by Matti Eerikäinen.
Much like Maria, Mikko and Mathilda, you're gonna need to be super patient with this one as very little is revealed until we begin to hit the final stretch of the film. If you've previously seen Nordic or Scandinavian ominous, forest related horror films then this might seem a bit unoriginal and predictable, and I did begin to sense that a bit as the film progressed, but I have to admit that the lovely foliage fuelled scenes towards the end involving a woodland "creature" all lit up with a red tinge did it for me.
- Gavin Logan
'The Knocking' received it's UK Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 25th and is released on Digital Platforms September 4th