FINNISH HORROR [1950 - 1990]
A Wiki page dedicated to Finnish horror has an index containing six titles, only two of which were made before 1990. IMDb does a little better job, turning up six pre-1990 feature films and two TV movies. Poking around I was able to turn up a few more for a grand total of ten films made between 1950 and 1990.
Tracing back Finnish horror to its roots, we first have to go all the way back to 1927 with the silent Noidan kirot (“Curses of the Witch”) from pioneering director Teuvo Puro. Puro had previously made 1907's Salaviinanpolttajat / "The Moonshiners"; a 20-minute comedy short that was also Finland's very first feature film, as well as Sylvi (1913), which was Finland's first full-length feature film. While his lone genre effort is widely considered the first Finnish horror by historians, a previous 1923 fantasy film, Rautakylän vanha parooni (“The Old Iron Baron of the Village”), is sometimes also considered. These were also the only genre films out of Finland for awhile. There wouldn't be another until the ghost film Linnaisten vihreä kamari ("The Green Chamber of Linnais") two decades later.
Moving on to 1952 we have a pair of horror films. First and foremost is the brilliantly-shot and wonderfully Nordic The White Reindeer, which is filled with dark imagery that practically leaps off the screen since it's set against a snowy white backdrop and became an unlikely cross-over success that won the Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe and a major award at Cannes. And then there was Noita palaa elämään (aka The Witch, or Return of the Witch) which may have been less artistically accomplished but was still adequately atmospheric. It was also a hot export due to its sexually frank nature and the fact it contained numerous nude scenes from its female star, which eventually got this booked in U.S. theaters as an "adults only" skin flick (center image below) with the tagline "See this startling fantasy in naked reality!" I'm forever grateful that this pair of films exist because 1952 is, globally, pretty slim on horror films otherwise. Two years later there was a ghost comedy (Kummitus kievari / “Ghost Tavern”) and then... barely anything... for decades. In fact, the countries entire film industry hit a slump for awhile. Many blame the rising popularity of TV for this dry spell.
It wouldn't be until the mid-80s that a few other genre features emerged. The Finnish commercial TV network Mainostelevisio made the ghost tale Yöjuttu: Merkitty (1984) and the four-part miniseries Painajainen / "Nightmare" (1988), which involves an amnesiac uncovering horrifying secrets about his life. The same year as the latter came the theatrical release The Moonlight Sonata from Olli Soinio, which is highly derivative of American slasher movies (most notably The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and unfortunately filled with forced camp comedy. Soinio had previously made the 23-minute short Transvestijan tarinoita ("Tales of Transvestia"), a monster movie parody, which is thus far the only Finnish horror from the 1970s I've been able to unearth.
There were around a half dozen 90s releases, including Soinio's Sonata sequel Kuutamosonaatti 2: Kadunlakaisijat (1991), which was called Army of Zombies in the U.S. and Germany. More recently, well-received genre films like Sauna (2008), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) and Euthanizer (2017) make the occasional ripple, though The White Reindeer remains the major highlight here.
- White Reindeer, The (Valkoinen peura) (1952; Erik Blomberg) ▲
- Witch, The (Noita palaa elämään) (1952; Roland af Hällström)
- Ghost Tavern (Kummitus kievari) (1954; Lasse Pöysti)
- Galgmannen (Gallows; Hirsipuumies) (1961; Carl Mesterton) [TV]
- Tales of Transvestia (Transvestijan tarinoita) (1975; Olli Soinio) [short]
- MP - I'm Afraid (MP - Minä pelkään) (1982; Pekka Hyytiäinen)
- Marked (Merkitty; Yöjuttu: Merkitty) (1984; Ismo Sajakorpi) [TV]
- Folk Artist (Kansantaiteilija) (1986; Risto Rumpunen [short]
- Moonlight Sonata, The (Kuutamosonaatti) (1988; Olli Soinio) ▼
- Nightmare (Painajainen) (1988; Ismo Sajakorpi) [4 part TV miniseries]
- Galgmannen is based on a(n apparently popular) play by Finnish writer Runar Schildt. There were two other adaptations made in Sweden; a theatrical release in 1945 and a TV movie in 1969, as well as a Norwegian TV version in 1983.
Got any more for the list? Let me know below.