You don’t hear much about Finnish movies, especially Finnish horror movies, but 2008’s Sauna somehow fits into this unique niche perfectly. Well that’s really not saying much when you consider it is the only movie in it. But when you think of the prevalence and popularity of saunas in Finland, and all of the Scandinavian countries, you realize that this movie was a long time coming.
The setting is post-war Finland in the 1500’s, which is at the time part of Sweden, who just waged war with Russia. The main characters are Knut and Eerik, who are wandering around aimlessly in search of other forms of human life. They stumble across a strange town, which is under the control of an oversized sauna. An oversized sauna whose energy is used to help people atone for their sins.
Now before you start thinking that this is way too farfetched, remember that at one time, the Finnish did regard the sauna as a spiritual home. A place to go and become one with the Nordic Gods. So a futuristic world where the same premise is used is believable if you know Finnish history.
The movie will scare the bejesus out of you, and make you reconsider that trip to the sauna you have planned for next week. Better yet, before renting it, go check out some review sites for a portable infrared sauna that you can set up at home. This should quell any fears of being possessed when you strip down to your undies at the gym.
There are many components to the movie that are attributing to the fear factor, starting with the main characters. Take Eerik for example and his brooding masculinity. Despite being the protagonist in the movie, he is villainous both in looks and actions. His only redeeming quality is the endless pain he feels for having lost his way from his home and family.
The minor characters, those that inhabit the town, are (for want of a better word) ghostly. Not quite ghost, yet certainly dehumanized by something, these characters will make your hair stand on end. There is absolutely no explanation given for their appearance, asides from the scary sauna, yet somehow you know that going inside is a very bad idea.
Behind all of the scary settings and even scarier characters lies the scariest notion of all. This movie will make you consider what a life would be like if every sin you committed was destined to stay with you forever, haunting your very soul.