A new genre film is making its way to becoming a Netflix hit: the Norwegian horror thriller CADAVER starts with an ominously promising premise, but it suffers the same fate as so many of the streaming giant’s own productions. We reveal what we mean by this in our review.
OT: Carcass (NOR 2020)
When a nuclear disaster causes famine, Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad) and their daughter Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman) find themselves on the brink of survival. One day, the local hotel invites the survivors to a play, which includes a meal, as a charitable effort to help those in need. Left with no other choice, the family of three decides to go to the hotel, where the hotel manager Mathias (Thorbjørn Harr) presents the entire hotel as a stage. The audience is given masks to help them distinguish themselves from the actors, but the play takes a scary turn when audience members gradually disappear. The line between reality and theater quickly becomes blurred until Alice disappears right in front of Leonora and Jacob’s eyes and there is no longer any doubt: Things are not going well in Mathias’ hotel.
Before the streaming service Netflix released the Norwegian horror thriller “Kadaver” worldwide at the end of October, the directorial work of feature film debutant Jarand Herdal was compared in some places with the genre insider tip “The Shaft”. And this comparison isn’t all that far-fetched. The stories of both films take place in a post-apocalyptic world. In both films there is a kind of class struggle. And food plays a significant role in both films. “The Shaft” presented its social allegory rather clumsily, but the Spanish festival favorite was still incredibly entertaining. The former also applies to “Kadaver”: Herdal, who is also responsible for the script, insists on underpinning his already anything but subtle symbolism with a lot of analytical dialogue – so that in the end it really is everyone Viewer understands his intended criticism of the system. When it comes to entertainment, however, that’s the same thing. The starting point and setting are correct, but it takes a lot of questionable skill to prepare such a promising premise in such a boring way as happened here.
Leonora (Gitte Witt) and Jacob (Thomas Gullestad) accepted the invitation to dinner.
Since the filmmakers commissioned by the streaming service for a Netflix original are usually allowed to let off steam without any imposed limits, it is not uncommon for works with an extremely long running time to be created. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”, the legendary director chose the VOD platform as an evaluation portal precisely because his 209-minute epic from classic Hollywood studios was simply too long. Creatives like Michael Bay (“6 Underground”, 128 minutes), António Campos (“The Devil all the Time”, 138 minutes) or Spike Lee (“Da 5 Bloods”, 155 minutes) should appreciate this freedom, even if It has now been repeatedly observed that this staged carte blanche is not always an advantage due to the lengths that have to be accepted. Although “Kadaver” with its 86 minutes (credits included) does not fit into the list of Netflix productions that are too long, the same observation can still be made that can also be made in the case of “The Irishman”, “The Devil all the Time” and Co.: It would have helped to commission someone to check the horror thriller for narrative gaps before it was finally completed – even if the result would probably have been a film that barely filled the 60 minutes with a lot of noise.
“Although “Kadaver” with its 86 minutes does not join the list of Netflix productions that are too long, the same observation can still be made as with “The Irishman”, “The Devil all the Time” and Co.: It would have helped “To commission someone to check the horror thriller for narrative gaps before final completion.”
Jarand Herdal establishes his scenario more than quickly: After a rudimentary introduction to the protagonist family, we are already in the middle of the hotel, which, given the precarious situation in front of the closed doors, is like a paradise: While the famine is raging outside, the guests are allowed inside as part of one Feast extensively on the play – crime dinner à la Netflix, so to speak. With its meter-high ceilings, the elegant interior with lots of golden accents and the mask wearers walking around in it, the setting is inevitably reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s erotic drama “Eyes Wide Shut”, although the glossy images appear cheaper than they should be due to the (too) strong lighting. The look of “Kadaver” appears as clean as possible – even when depicting bare skin or – even more so – violence, the images remain clean and orderly. You don’t feel the kind of physicality you would expect from a Netflix film with the not exactly subtle title “Kadaver” here. The unbridled creative freedom for Netflix directors not only applies to the running length, but also to what is shown in the film. And after “Tyler Rake: Extraction”, “Apostle” or “The Night Comes for Us” (not strictly speaking a Netflix original, but a film that could never have been released uncut in a regular cinema or home cinema release), Netflix has taken on the So far, portrayals of physical violence have been extremely open-minded.
The hotel employees are all part of a theater production… right?
In “Kadaver”, on the other hand, the situation escalates after a far too long first act of aimless wandering around the hotel and the quickly becoming redundant question of whether scenes of sex and violence are really part of the play or real, but this escalation is limited primarily on the leading actress Gitte Witt (“The Impossible”) to watch as she in turn watches masked people kidnapping hotel guests one by one. Despite the obvious title, it is not revealed why such a theater scenario is needed for this purpose. can In the meantime, we won’t reveal it at all – simply because the makers themselves don’t seem to really believe their far-fetched justification, so that the credo repeated like a prayer wheel by hotel director Mathias seems more and more ridiculous as time goes on. “Kadaver” certainly has approaches that reveal potential. When little Alice is invited to his Wonderland by the organizer at the beginning of the film, this allusion to the Lewis Carroll classic “Alice in Wonderland” stirs up great expectations – but it is no longer taken up later.
“We can’t reveal why such a theater scenario is needed for this purpose – simply because the makers themselves don’t seem to really believe their far-fetched justification.”
For the fact that, due to the hotel manager’s very shady attitude right from the start, one never seriously considers that the production is actually just a play (and therefore there is no fall height to finally realize that something is seriously wrong here) , the actors can’t do anything. Nor for some outrageous script decisions that make the characters look extremely stupid, even by genre film standards. Many of them obviously only fall because the plot would otherwise end after just a few minutes. But as it is, Leonora often just stumbles through the many winding hotel corridors for minutes – sometimes with her family, sometimes without her – only to then make another disgusting discovery. And yet the shock value remains surprisingly low until the end – everything here has been seen better somewhere.
Conclusion: A promising setting meets poor implementation – despite its socio-political explosiveness, the Norwegian horror thriller “Kadaver” is too tough, too predictable and too tame to do justice to the makers’ biting intentions.
“Kadaver” is now available on Netflix.