Sauna (2008)
By: James Gillett on April 2, 2010  | 
Asylum | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Finnish DD 5.1 | 120 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Antti-Jussi Annila
Starring: Ville Virtanen, Tommi Eronen, Viktor Klimenko, Rain Tolk, Kari Ketonen
Screenplay: Iiro Küttner
Country: Finland
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It's 1595, and two Finnish brothers are charged with the task of marking new borders between Russia and Sweden following a 25 year war. Coming across a farmhouse along the way, an incident ensues over a dispute, and a young girl is left in the basement of the property. Travelling on, one of the brothers notices a girl following them, her face disturbingly pouring with black filth. Soon after, arriving at a small isolated village, they discover an ominous Sauna standing alone in the middle of a dark swamp.

If you step inside, all your sins are washed away...

If that all sounded a little vague, then good. The less you know about Sauna the better. This is a movie best experienced as fresh as possible, so I'll refrain from discussing any spoiling specifics. What I can tell you about Sauna is its well worth your time. It's beautifully eerie and atmospheric stuff, filmed classically with skill and control. No cheap jump scares or an over-reliance on gore here, it's far more interested in exploring the pain and psyche of its characters in a tale that draws you deeper and deeper into a dark nightmare.

Full of symbolism and thematically rich, dealing with guilt and redemption for starters, the interpretive nature of some of Sauna's finer aspects certainly make it ripe for discussion and repeat viewings, but never does it feel incomprehensible or leave you hanging. It's refreshing to find a horror film with a touch of ambiguity that takes itself seriously in terms of tone and theme, all the while staying on track, delivering scares and engaging completely.

Performances are strong right across the board, and as eluded too earlier, it's a visually stunning film. Right from the opening close-up of a flowing river that reddens with blood, Sauna's a bleakly beautiful experience, and the marsh like setting, shot in dreary daylight, brings an impressive foreboding quality.

Really, I have very little to say about Sauna in the negative. It's thoughtful, engaging and unique. Three words you don't see slapped across many genre films these days. If that sounds good to you, you're in for quite a viewing treat.
Presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Sauna sports an impressive transfer that does the films wonderful visuals justice. Clear and detailed. Not a single complaint.
The choice of either Finnish Dolby Digital 5.1 or Stereo 2.0. The 5.1 track is pleasingly clear and balanced. Again, not a single complaint.
Extra Features
We get a Featurette: The Making of Sauna consisting mostly of behind the scenes footage with some words from the cast and crew. Also on offer is Sauna's Theatrical Trailer, a Trailer for the Wii game Cursed Mountain and Trailers for two other Madman titles Infection and The Grudge.
The Verdict
Sauna is an impressive film; thematically rich and stunningly realised. It's the kind of horror movie seldom seen. Those who occasionally enjoy something a little more cerebral than your average horror effort will find themselves with a deeply rewarding and engaging film. Wash your sins. Step inside...
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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