Finish horror is developing quite the niche since Jalmari Helander’s festive feast Rare Exports was released in 2010. Since then, we have seen a rerelease of 1952’s The White Reindeer — a vampiric white Christmas — and, most recently, last year’s Hatching from Hanna Bergholm; a superb twisted coming-of-age fable as much at home in the realms of Jim Henson as it is early Peter Jackson.
Directors Max Seeck and Joonas Pajunen’s own debut, The Knocking, is another exploration of folklore, this time rooted in the forests of Finland that manages to deliver a tense and terrifying eco-horror. At the centre of the story is a mystery surrounding three adult siblings — Mikko (Pekka Strang), Maria (Inka Kallén) and youngest sister Matilda (Saana Koivisto) — who return to their childhood home, where their parents were (allegedly) murdered. In the years since, the family home has been left to the forest in an effort to leave all of their bad memories behind. Now their plan is to return and prepare the house and estate for sale but as they explore their old home and the surrounding forest, they not only unlock memories of the past but also soon discover a primordial force that is preventing them from selling the land.
Seeck is an international and New York Times bestselling author who has previously won the Finnish ‘Whodunnit Society’s Debut Thriller of the Year Award’ so it is no surprise that the film’s central mystery is the strongest thread of the film that genuinely leads to a chilling twist. The cast of distinctive weathered faces is also a strong element along with the dynamics of the siblings; specifically, the age gaps that play into a generational comment on ignorance and the environment. Where the film tends to derail slightly is in its pacing, structure, and score; the flashbacks — as vital as they are — slowing the narrative and flow of the film as the third act reveals little ingenuity. As far as the music is concerned it tends to overstay its welcome and detract from the atmosphere that is so carefully built up; sounds of the forest themselves — the quietness, the wind, the knocking — all that is needed for the most part.
Faults aside, The Knocking is a more than confident debut that builds an intriguing enough eco-tale and, although defaults to more familiar tropes, there is enough at play in the tension and intrigue to satisfy most genre audiences.
The Knocking is on digital platforms 4 September.