Runtime: 87 minutes
Distributed by: Indie Rights
Sweden, the 11th century. A missionary cortege has gone missing inside Ödmården, a huge forest that divides the north from the south. The king sends out his third to either retrieve them alive or kill the insurgents responsible for their deaths. Among the soldiers is Nanna, a young woman on her ﬁrst real mission. Orphaned at a young age, she has been raised at the royal guard and is now for the ﬁrst time traveling to her birth home, the pagan areas north of Ödmården. As they travel deeper into the dark forest, they realize that there is something else in there with them.
Using a historical backdrop for a native folktale really goes a long way to setting up a film that begins effectively atmospheric. This atmosphere is given extra support by the fact that the crew filmed in the actual forest reflected in the film, and the production department did a fairly good job dressing up the actors to give them an authentic look. The acting is also quite good from everyone involved, with only sporadic drops in quality from the performances. The score is minimalistic and mostly works, even when it’s being slightly repetitive. The direction is adequate enough to the point that I’m very interested in seeing what the directing duo, Karin Engman and Klas Persson, make next.
The limited budget of the film shows, hindering the film experience. A significant portion of the third act takes place at night but appears to be shot “day for night”, which hurt my eyes over time and took me out of the movie. There were issues with the sound mixing throughout the entire film; moments you’d expect to be loud were too silent, and sometimes sound effects didn’t pack the physical punch you’d expect. In particular, the film features a battle sequence in which the music is far too quiet, the actors yelling is much too loud, and the sound effects don’t quite sound right. It made for a sloppy scene overall and unfortunately it was an issue that affected the rest of the movie for me. Draug also incorporates blurry slow motion sequences into the film in numerous places and it’s overutilized for my taste. The plot is predictable and I found it lacking real emotional weight, which made it difficult for me to become invested in the story or characters.
Draug is a great start for an early directing duo that could have an impressive career ahead of them. The film has moments of true brilliance, but sadly, the moments of mediocrity outweigh them. Overall I had some fun with Draug, which kept me invested enough to sit through the less effective sequences (and serious technical issues) to see it through to the end credits. Unfortunately those technical issues, budget restraints, and a story lacking in emotional investment held the movie back from being anything more than simply watchable.
Final Grade: C-
You can follow Cory on his twitter @corytweetsfilm