By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The beauty of the countryside of Finland is the spotlight in Kyrsyä–Tuftland, a melodramatic piece of Folk Horror by director-producer Roope Olenius. This work is his first feature film and his attention to detail does more to emphasize a hidden terror than provide supernatural scares. Billed as Rosemary’s Baby meets Wicker Man, this hook was enough to get me interested in examining this film. Darkside Releasing made this title available in Canada last month. In the States, it’s now available on VOD with thanks to Subliminal Films.
Irina Vaahtera (Veera W. Vilo) is this film’s protagonist, and she’s feeling very lost, especially after finding out her boyfriend cheated on her. She’s not doing too well in school either, and she simply decided to get away from it all, by taking a summer internship in a small town which specializes in making a special embroidery.
In Kyrsyä. the old ways have never been abandoned. Not only does it include living off the land but also in how the community thrives. But Maaria, a young lady she befriends, warns her not to be too set in her modern ways. Getting in trouble is easy here. To upset their natural order of things, belief or otherwise is easy. The druidic way of life is implied in this dialogue-heavy film. Hiding in the woods is a wild man and he’s not to be trifled with. To understand this spiritual context is very hit and miss, as understanding this culture was certainly lost on Irina.
The xenophobia explored is crazy. The burly men in the community are rarely seen and the only individual Irina. As with any closed community, to invite a stranger in never happens. Everyone may seem receptive to her but I could see past their charade. She’s alone. To note, this community is very far away from the highway and hitchhiking is not an option.
This story can easily borrow from Suspiria if Olenius (who also wrote the screenplay) wanted to. Instead, this work is billed as taking inspiration from The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby. I see shades of the former than latter, but I get why Roman Polanski’s film is referenced. Should this community decide to spread their way of life elsewhere, just who controls who can make for a new struggle. Irina did find herself smack dab in a cult, and to convert her over–if she was willing–was not easy.
3½ Stars out of 5