As madcap, slapstick Norwegian bloodbath comedies go, “I Onde Dager (In Bad Times)” isn’t half bad.
Dark, grisly, suspenseful and laugh-out-loud funny, it sometimes skips and sometimes lopes along — scored to jaunty Norwegian pop, rock and an unforgettable Norske cover of “Harper Valley PTA.”
We see “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” laugh, and not a chuckle either. Noomi Rapace cuts loose with a “Garbo Laughs” guffaw.
We cackle in surprise ourselves.
And Netflix damned near ruined it all by giving the film the over-used English title “The Trip” for North American consumption. I mean, come on.
It starts with one premise and proceeds to try and one-up itself, scene by scene, complication by complication, with every new character and morbid twist actor-turned-screenwriter Nick Ball comes up with. He’s taking a shot at “Sleuth” and “Deathtrap” and “Knives Out” and any complicated comic thriller you can take of — good and bad. And if he doesn’t come close to the classics, he sure serves up an often fun ride.
We see TV director Lars (Aksel Hennie) finish an amusingly melodramatic scene on the soap opera where he works, flirt with his star and, for the first time, too-obviously mention (in Norwegian with English subtitles) how he’s going to the family’s cabin by the lake, that his actress wife is “going for a hike in the woods and that it’s “dangerous.”
When he brings it up to somebody else, we’re onto him. That trek to the hardware store isn’t subtle either — rope, duct tape, hand saws and a hammer?
Lisa (Rapace) is a gum-snapping bottle-blonde, a Swedish actress fond of wine but not making much headway in Norwegian acting circles — a TV commercial here, a failed stage audition there.
But whatever Lars is cooking up, Lisa may have a counter. She figures he has “an idiotic motive, an idiotic plan” because “he’s an idiotic man!” And when things get their ugliest, she dismisses him as a “not much going on up there” director, and he spits “You’re a terrible, AWFUL actress.”
Blows are exchanged. Blood is spilled. And then, outside parties get involved. This Cabin in the Woods turns “Cabin in the Woods” and “Fargo” and the like. “Messy?” You don’t know the half of it.
Director Tommy Wirkola (“Dead Snow,” “What Happened to Monday”) keeps this lumbering beast on the move, the film’s saving grace. The first act delivers so many injuries that we have to wonder how the story and the bleeding characters will make it through two more acts of mayhem on this level.
They bring in substitutes. That’s how.
The filmmaking makes a virtue of the all-too-obvious foreshadowing — a closet full of shotguns, a kitchen loaded with knives, duct tape — showing us Wirkola is on much more confident ground than he was with “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
Rapace is her usual lethal self, throwing in a little smirk behind all the fury. Hennie (“Headhunters”) makes Lars an amusing, clumsy dullard we underestimate. Repeatedly.
And the motley crew that joins them in woods in ways explained via “five days earlier….three days earlier” etc. flashbacks is just as game, and if anything even more over-the-top.
Ball serves up just enough Nazi jokes, sex gags and out-of-left-field jolts to keep “The Trip” funny and interesting, even as the energy flags, here and there.
But that’s quibbling. This is bloody good fun, and damned bloody and damned funny in the bargain.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Aksel Hennie
Credits: Directed by Tommy Wirkola, scripted by Nick Ball. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:54