Videoman Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by World of Film
Written and directed by Kristian A. Söderström
2018, 93 minutes, Not Yet Rated
FrightFest UK premiere on 26th August 2018
Stefan Sauk as Ennio Midena
Lena Nilsson as Simone Karlsson
Morgan Alling as Bosse
Carolin Stoltz as Faceless
In a story which will strike a chord with many horror fans, an obsessive VHS collector finds his sanity circling the drain when a rare tape is stolen from his library. We all hate a gap in the collection, right? To make matters worse, Ennio is lumbered with a severe drinking problem, rising debts and a sinister VHS collector (the mysterious ‘Faceless’) on his trail, who will stop at nothing in getting the tape for herself.
At the same time, ageing divorcee Simone has problems of her own; bullying in the workplace, a daughter who can’t bear to spend time with her, no-one liking her Instagram posts, and an inability to lay off the wine. Through the antique copy of Zombie which she sells to Ennio (who rips her off, all things considered) the pair stumble into each other’s orbit, and a melancholy, damaged romance is initiated.
Videoman is an unusual, fascinating Swedish black comedy/romance/drama/thriller; more about horror films than a conventional horror film in itself. It has its moments of tension, grotesquery and even bloodshed, but skews far more towards the romantic drama-dy genre than one might expect. In this genre-bent respect, it’s similar to Berberian Sound Studio, as a quiet, moody character study rather than the modern Giallo it perhaps purports to be.
But make no mistake, horror fans will delight in Videoman’s intricacies, from the retro score to the surrealist flights of fancy in the film’s imagery. Ennio’s video collection (loosely based on that of a real-life Swedish video collector) boasts a wealth of artefacts, reminiscent of the heaped bookcases usually seen in the background of horror movie documentaries and DVD special features. It’s not just Ennio’s vault either; Videoman treats viewers to a tour of various collectors’ apartments, wryly commenting on viewing habits and storage routines (one guy sorts his collection by – shudder – director). This is does while condemning its characters’ attachment to objects of nostalgia in place of human connection. Through its bittersweet lens, Videoman does so without condescension; even the most hardcore of cult VHS collectors are unlikely to come away feeling personally attacked by this.
As Ennio and Simone, actors Stefan Sauk and Lena Nilsson are achingly recognisable, imbuing their characters with warmth and vulnerability, even during their most monstrous and tragic moments. Ennio is particularly recognisable – a shaven-headed, black-hoody and skinny jeans-wearing ageing punk who’d be right at home at FrightFest (where you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for a certain Alan Jones).
Where it falters is when it does embrace its more overt thriller elements – ‘Faceless’ is never a tangible enough threat for us to fear for Ennio’s well-being, even as he is stalked around the city by a thuggish-looking masked man. By the later stages of the story, viewers should be so invested in the relationship between Ennio and Simone (plus personal demons) that Faceless is more of a thinly-sketched distraction than anything else. The finale feels like a misstep, albeit a slightly necessary one to bring us the real story we’ve enjoyed up until this point.
Viewers will come for the Giallo-eque visuals and Easter-egg spotting on Ennio’s shelves and TV, but are likely to stay for the astounding character work at its heart. One only wishes it could have integrated its A-storyline just a little better.