Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…

Finland! Finland? I don’t know squat about Finland, so let’s take a brief stroll over to Wikipedia shall we? Population of just over five million. Capital city is Helsinki. The second most stable country in the world (with Somalia being the most volatile.) Renny Harlin was birthed upon the world here… Okay, enough about Finland.

Dark Floors begins with a father’s attempt to remove his creepy and sick daughter from the hospital which he feels has failed her. The pair boards the elevator with a female doctor, a security guard, a random male visitor, and Ridley Scott, and they head down to the ground floor. The elevator stops a few floors shy instead and opens onto an empty hospital. As the group begin to look for an alternate route down they soon realize they’re being stalked by a quintet of seven-foot tall gothic monsters played by the Finnish rock band, Lordi. Bodies pile up, zombies rise up, ghosts show up, and you just may want to give up before it’s all over. I kid. (But I’m serious.)

The basic premise of Dark Floors follows a classic horror movie setup. A small group of strangers trapped in an enclosed environment while monsters of some kind or another pick them off one by one. It’s a simple enough formula and the film only really strays from it when it comes time to explain what’s happening and why… because the film doesn’t explain it at all. The girl is obviously the focus, portal, or cause of the events, but it’s never really made clear. Neither is her illness, which could be anything from autism to a tumor to syphilis. What is clear is that she’s often able to sense impending trouble, can be highly annoying, and really needs to keep a better grip on her crayons. The other characters behave as expected, and the actors do a fine job speaking in a second language (English.)

In addition to it’s lack of cohesive and clear story, Dark Floors also can’t decide what kind of horror film it wants to be. Is it a story about vengeful ghosts that haunt the hospital? Yes! Is it a zombie tale where the dead return to life and terrorize the living? Yes! Is it horror infused with science fiction and filled with alternate and overlapping realities where time can stand still? Yes! Is it a marketing tool for the band, Lordi, to show off their stage costumes and menacing growls? Yes!

It’s a shame too, because the film looks really good. Director Pete Riski and cinematographer Jean Noel Mustonen have shot a beautiful movie with sharp visuals, evocative and moody scenes, and a dream-like sensibility. The effects are impressive too, both the practical makeup and the CGI. The shot of rain drops frozen in mid air is fantastic, the ghosts look good, and even Lordi’s costumes and makeup/masks are kind of cool… I just wish I knew what they are or why they’re there. Old school monsters made with physical effects are a rare treat, and it’s always nice to see them. As cool as the “monsters” look, they’re also lacking in menace due to how easy it is to defeat them. One is dispersed with an x-ray machine, one is given a headache with CPR defibrillator paddles, another is pushed out a window… I kept waiting for the little girl to kick one of the band members in the nuts. And finally, the film’s ending is barely an ending at all, more cop-out than conclusion, that tries to offer an “oooh! moment but instead only musters a “WTF?”

Dark Floors is the most expensive Finnish film ever made, which I realize is like saying Disaster Movie was the best of the Friedberg/Seltzer spoof films. It was released on DVD last week as part of Lionsgate’s Ghost House Underground series. Check out the trailer below… it makes the movie look so much cooler than it actually is.

The Upside: An interesting mix of “monsters”, ghosts, and zombies; some good effects; you can say you’ve seen a Finnish horror film

The Downside: Pretty damn nonsensical; too easy to defeat some of the threats; never tells us why the mask-wearing vikings are so angry

Grade: C-


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