Sweden’s first influential horror film was the innovative 1921 silent film The Phantom Carriage. From there the horror genre didn’t really emerge until the late 1950’s.
Mannequin in Red (1958) was the second in the franchise about a married couple, the Hillman’s, and their murder mystery solving ways but it’s considered to be the precursor to Mario Bava’s Blood & Black Lace and the inspiring the giallo genre. In the 1950’s there was also a horror themed TV series, 13 Demon Street, that was shot in Sweden and syndicated in the U.S. with Lon Chaney Jr. hosting the show. Throughout the 1960’s and ’70s there was a smattering of horror films. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that the genre really picked up the pace.
The first real Swedish vampire film didn’t hit screens until the 2006 movie Frostbitten, a kind of similarly themed variation of 30 Days of Night except that science created these vampires. The brilliant and superior Let the Right One In came in 2008.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf.(1968) was the only horror film that he officially made but several of his other films, although really dramas, have a tense, horrifying feeling. Persona, Through the Glass Darkly and The Virgin Spring all have elements of horror worked in them. In fact the The Virgin Spring inspired Wes Craven’s 1972 horror film The Last House on the Left.
The Virgin Spring (1960) is a shocking tale of revenge. Set in medieval Sweden, Max von Sydow, a devout Christian sends his daughter (Birgitta Pettersson) and her pagan maid out to deliver candles to the local church. The maid is jealous of the daughter and runs into a creepy one-eyed man who promises her power. She flees and soon the two girls run into three herders. Things soon get nasty and the daughter is raped and murdered by the herders. The maid hides and flees. Unknowingly the herders then seek shelter at Max von Sydow’s home. When they try and sell the daughter’s cloths back to them, the jig is soon up and terrible vengeance is reigned down on them.
Wes Craven used the entire plot for his The Last House on the Left. but set it in a more modern setting. While researching Sweden’s horror history I stumbled across a debate of whether or not Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal can be considered a horror movie. Some of the arguments made included if The Masque of the Red Death is considered horror than why not The Seventh Seal and it does feature the plague and a chess game with death himself. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced but Bergman’s films do have a creepy feel to them. As for the Sweden’s more modern horror films, it’s growing and while there have been some bad ones recently, there can always be another Let the Right One In just around the corner.