I am going to assume that, just like me when I sat down to view EVIL RISING, the reader of my humble words has no previous knowledge of the movie.

The story is set in 1595 and a brutal war between Russia and Finland, that has been raging for a quarter of a century, is all but over. Two Finnish brothers Knut and Eerik have been assigned the task of convening with Russian soldiers in order to create an alliance and ultimately mark a new border between the territories.

A delay in the Russians arriving means the two siblings stay with a Russian peasant and his teenage daughter. While there, Eerik’s paranoia over of the Russians culminates in him murdering the innocent host and locking his equally innocent daughter in the underground cellar.

Paranoid about their inevitable implication in the heinous act, they leave to continue with their mission – all the while the daughter is still locked in the basement.

It’s not long though before some strange hallucinogenic visions start to haunt Knut. The young girl’s voice is heard calling him as his guilt reaches crisis point. His desperation for the war to be over so he can pursue his academic studies are at odds with Eerik who seems resigned to a life of violence and killing.

As the protagonists mission nears completion when they finally meet the aforementioned Russians of the Royal Border Commission some bizarre occurrences start to happen. Despite the soldiers agendas being completely opposite, they are drawn to a strangely situated enigmatic building that is soon revealed to be a sauna. But instead of the traditionally relaxing feeling that the sauna experience brings, the soldiers are enticed into facing their deeply hidden, and often horrid, innermost demons.

First off let me say that if you were to seriously dissect this movie you could easily end up writing a book, such are the conceptual stratums and metaphors. The dreamlike white building (Finnish sauna or Russian ‘banya’, if the history books are to be believed) is allegoric within the movie. It has often been stated that ‘guilt’ is a wasted emotion. Why then do we as humans tend to bury it so deep within the human psyche? The ‘sauna’ in this movie draws these taboo feelings to the surface of the characters minds.

I could go on, but firstly accept I am in no way qualified to discuss such matters and secondly do not wish to spoil the unique viewing experience that EVIL RISING brings.

And it’s that statement that leads me seamlessly onto the main point here.

The movie is a little confusing at times, flittering back and forth in different time frames. Its historical setting also may bewilder a few of you (like it did me!) but one thing that struck me as being blatantly obvious is, why the hell call a movie with such intense subject matter EVIL RISING??

The ignorance branding the complexities of life into the neat ‘black or white’ classification of ‘good and evil’ is only one of the distributors many failings. This all makes sense when I reveal (in case you don’t already know) that the original title of this movie was simply The Sauna, when released back in 2008.

Its commercial moniker of Evil Rising is at best misleading and at worst downright insulting to the UK Horror fraternity.

Fellow contributor and newfound friend Keri O’Shea has certainly discussed this point in some feedback for an excellent piece she penned for a movie called EATERS. So with the risk of plagiarism I urge you to consider some other examples of this. (Rammbock turned into Siege of the Dead. Mulberry Street became A Zombie Virus On Mulberry Street. Automaton Transfusion evolved into Zombie Transfusion)

I’ll even go as far as saying the name change destroys the movies impact. Example in point: a beautifully filmed opening scene in which the light froth of a flowing stream is tainted by an unknown source of crimson is banal and predictable when you are waiting for the EVIL to RISE. But watching a movie surreally called The Sauna that scene would have a profoundly different effect on the viewer.

I request you allow me to use the original title of ‘The Sauna’ for the remainder of this review.

The Sauna is a surreal and bleak piece of filmmaking. It has a calculatedly torpid pace which may not sit well with folk who simply want their fill of blood and guts! I am on not averse to switching my brain of to indulge in a splatter-rama at all, but sometimes an intelligent thought provoking movie hits the spot, especially if you are lucky enough to have the luxury of a bit of thinking time to ponder the many aspects of the film.

Why they didn’t go the whole hog and call it "My Guilty Rape Fantasies" to get the punters sweaty palms reaching for their wallets I don’t know! Trust me, as far stretched and sensational that that question may seem, it is actually whole heap more relevant then the brain dead Evil Rising moniker.

If you want a movie that will challenge your intelligence while playing on your mind way after the end credits roll, you could do a lot worse than The Sauna. If not, let’s just hope SAW part 10 isn’t too long in the offing!!!

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Matchbox Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review