Updated: Aug 19
Draug, or Draugr, are undead creatures of Norse mythology that are known to stalk their burial grounds. They carry with them a stench of corruption and decay and have the ability to enter the minds of both beast and man in order to drive them insane and allow the Draug to feast on their blood.
Not too long ago I had never heard of these mythical wraiths of Nordic folklore, but they seem to be turning up more and more just lately in various forms of media, be it in haunting the forgotten crypts and tombs of videogames such as Skyrim, or providing a foe that’s terrorising villages in the board game Champions of Midgard.
For all this creeping slowly into the modern subconscious, it’s the past we’ll be stepping into for the setting of this movie as we take a look at Druag; written by Klass Persson and directed by Karin Engman & Klass Persson.
Set roughly 1000 years ago, Swedish film Draug tells of a girl named Nanna (Elna Karlsson – The Great Dying), who has just started to experience strange, and disjointed visions. Nanna joins a group that heads out on a journey to locate a man named Buré, who was escorting a missionary through the Ödmårdern forest, only to disappear, seemingly never having made it through to the other side. The most likely suspects in the disappearances being bandits or those unfavourable to the Swedes and their turning to Christianity.
Along the way they convince an old friend, named Kettil (Thomas Hedengran – The Cabin), to join them on their mission. They then stop off at a nearby home to question a man named Are (Ola Ljung) whose son is known to roam the woods and be unfavourable towards the Swede’s. Whilst there, they also decide to seek the advice from Are’s mother-in-law, a crazy old woman known as Wormcunt. No, I’m not joking.
From then on, the group head into the forest to continue their search, but will they find who they’re looking for and will they manage to make their way out of the forest unscathed?
You’d be forgiven for seeing the cover to this film and, based on the image of a blindfolded figure, think that this movie is going to be along the lines of Birdbox, or perhaps even A Quiet Place, as those movies had similar themes. In a way, Draug has a similar style, with a steadily paced story that keeps an ongoing sense of threat running throughout. But there’s no loss of one of the senses here for the characters, more a heightening of them, especially for Nanna.
A majority of the sense of threat that permeates the movie comes from the score by Vampire Bites. It plays throughout nearly the entire movie and fills every scene, even ones with no visible sign of danger, with a wonderful feeling of ominous dread. In fact, when the film premiered at Screamfest 2018, it won an award for Best Musical Score. In addition to that, actor Thomas Hedengran won the award for best actor.
This mention of the soundtrack, however, does bring me to my one real gripe with the film and oddly enough, as much as I like it, it is with the soundtrack. The problem I had was that there were times when the music needed to be dialled all the way down and let the ambient sounds of the surroundings provide the audio. This is especially noticeable in scenes where characters are intently listening in the forest after one of them thought they heard something coming from the dark, shadowy depths of the trees. As an audience member, you want to listen too. Can you detect the strange noise that disturbed the characters? What could it be? Probably the soundtrack as that’s all that can really be heard as it’s still playing, rather than letting an oppressive silence do the work. But that is a very minor moan on my part, it doesn’t happen very often and the soundtrack is so good that I didn’t mind that much. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I type this up.
Klass Persson has done a top-notch job of bringing his vision to the screen and once again we’re getting a new director doing a great job of their first step into feature-length films. The camerawork and visuals convey a good sense of the oppressiveness of the forest & surrounding areas, especially a scene set in a cave with the lighting and claustrophobia reminding me of Neil Marshall’s film, The Descent.
The acting is spot on, as you’d expect when one of the cast gets a Best Actor award, but they all do a great job. There’s a smattering of humour at the start that works really well as it is done in such a way that it is unintentional on the part of the characters, just something that occurs due to dodgy woodwork or drunken forgetfulness. That and the name Wormcunt, of course. It doesn’t feel out of place either in such a darkly toned film as those light-hearted moments are just brief interludes at the start of the journey.
At the time of writing the film has just been released on amazon’s prime video service for rent or purchase, and is certainly worth the low price. Don’t forget though that as this is a Swedish movie, there will be subtitles to read and although I have no issue with that, I know it’s not to everyone’s liking so I thought I’d mention it.
It probably won’t be a film for those that are in the mood for something immediate and fast-paced, but for those that are after something that creeps up steadily and has a sense of dire foreboding, this is certainly one to watch.
Ödmårdern Filmproduktion is an independent film production couple in Sweden with Draug being their debut feature.
For more info about the film (including stills and trailers) visit:
You can also view the official trailer on their youtube channel by using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fn2z4hMnyw
And, if you want to hear that award-winning soundtrack, that's on their youtube channel too and you find it using this link:
There are a few other videos regarding the movie available on their youtube channel, along with episodes of The Great Dying, so it's well worth taking a look, and you can find it here:
The movie is now available in the UK on amazon prime
And also on prime at amazon.com