What has Sweden ever given the world of horror cinema? Much like my own homeland, not an awful lot, despite both countries having the most perfect setting for tales of terror. I mean, it is bloody pitch-dark half the year and between our sparsely populated cities lies vast amounts of untouched wilderness, just ready to snatch you away at any given moment. Admittedly Sweden has fared marginally better in the horror department than Finland, producing classics like Häxan (1922), The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen, 1921) and Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen, 1968), as well as stepping up their game in recent years with titles such as Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In, 2008), Wither (2012) and Midsommar (2019). But like the thick pine shrouded forests surrounding the cities, towns, and villages, there is a colossal gap between these old and new gems of scandi horror and logic would surely dictate that this gap cannot simply be a dark gaping chasm with nothing in it. And of course, it is not, and between 1968 and 2019 Sweden has naturally offered a few other entries to the horror genre, most of which time and, with it, audiences, have long forgotten.
That is unless you spent your youth like me, watching any horror you could get your grubby little hands on and thus came across Peter Borg’s Scorched Heat (1987). This fantastic tale of revenge from beyond the grave was brought to my attention by a friend who hands down swore it was the best thing since sliced bread and at least for one glorious summer, that is what me and several friends truly believed. Far out special effects, killer puppets, foul language and incredible plotline full of terrors beyond compare. I would like to say that Scorched Heat has it all, but having revisited it as an adult, I can confirm that is quite not the case. However, that does not take away the fact that it is still one of the greatest B-horrors ever produced in Sweden (or possibly anywhere) and a fantastically terrible trip down dark, ghostly avenues where corpses threaten to fuck your wife and groovy street gangs rule the desolate wastelands of suburban Sweden. Spoilers ahead, so tread lightly.
Steve (Harald Treutiger) is high flying record company executive working in Dallas Texas. He and his wife Linda (Babs Brinklund) live the yuppie dream with a poolside bars, speed pills and exotic holiday getaways, when out of nowhere Steve’s childhood friend Eric (Martin Brandqvist) gets in touch and begs him to return to his native Sweden. Dark forces are afoot, and Eric is desperate for assistance. Despite concluding that Eric has completely lost it, Steve decides it is his duty to lend a hand in these trying times and so he heads to Sweden with the lovely Linda on tow. Oh, but what horrors wait for them, as it quickly (and I do mean quickly) becomes very clear that the supernatural forces plaguing Eric are not merely a figment of his imagination, but a very real threat for all involved.
Steve and Linda have barely arrived and broken into Eric’s house (the door was unlocked after all, so why not) when strange things start to happen. After being attacked by the crazed Eric and swiftly subduing him by breaking a bottle on his head, Steve politely asks if Linda could have a bath, you know, as you do in that kind of situation. This soon turns out to be a mistake and not because of the awful awkwardness of having bath in a complete strangers house and using their bathrobe, but because the teacher (Mr. Andersson, played by Johnny Harborg) that your husband and his friend accidentally killed as children, is about to attack you. Soon Linda is in full throttle of ghostly possession with burned out corpse arms shooting out of her mouth and poor Steve almost ends up shooting her there and then. Maybe Eric is not so crazy after all? After a brief recap, it is Steve’s turn and he gets his comeuppance with a very rude “Home Sweet Home”-sign that transforms into “Fuck You Steve”-sign, and getting sprayed all over by demonic sperm that spouts out of the kitchen sink.
Meanwhile Eric is getting harassed by hallucinations of possessed Linda. Luckily, a stiff slap on the face get’s rid of any nasty images this phantom teacher might have conjured up, but it still leaves our trio with the dilemma of how to banish such a spirit? Linda has an idea: she once read in a book that you can get rid of a ghost simply by tearing down the building that it is haunting. Simple, right? Never mind the fact that this particular ghost is not actually haunting a building but the people who killed him, but let’s not let a minor detail like that to stand in a way of otherwise totally plausible plotline.
After some more demonic shenanigans including Steve almost shooting Linda’s head off, again, as well as nearly blowing a hole in an unfortunate burglar creeping in the Eric’s cellar (for fuck’s sake Steve, put that thing away already!), the trio decides that the best option is to try to blow up the demon teachers old residence. Worth a try, eh? Well that is easier said than done as the whole place now lays in ruin and finding the building’s only remaining part, its cellar, is not going to be easy. And not only that, the whole place is ruled by criminal gangs! You know, the kind that Sweden is so well known for. Don’t worry though, they only come out at night. But, as we already have established, night falls fast in Sweden and so our heroes master plan is quickly interrupted by getting kidnapped by the best dressed gang in the world. There’s a guy with an eyepatch and a cowboy hat, simultaneously channelling Kurt Russel from Escape From New York and The Thing, a long hair dude playing a bitching guitar solo, and a fat, shirtless bossman with John Lennon sunglasses and an old school army helmet. Totally tubular. The imprisonment only last for mere moments before Linda kicks the bossman on the nuts and glasses another gang member with an empty bottle. The rest of gang is then sent screaming into the night with the trusty old shotgun and a bundle of dynamite. Yay!
But dammit! There is still that pesky ghost to deal with. After some serious digging around, the heroic trio finally find the cellar and go about blowing the whole place up, including any lingering spirits. Shockingly the dynamite that Eric for some reason just happened to have laying around in his house does not work and Steve and Eric must confront their old nemesis face to face. The whole situation is surprisingly easily solved by simply thrusting a metal pole trough the animated teacher corpse and Steve and Eric can go back to their normal, mundane lives. Or can they? Well of course not. Instead of impaling Mr. Andersson, they end up impaling and killing Linda and before the duo can have any half-baked notions of covering up the crime, the local police, having been called to the scene by the Kurt Russel hybrid, arrive to arrest them. Impaled Linda turns to the camera and winks as we are taken away by the sweet sounds of the films theme tune “Illusions” by Jonas Hansson.
Scorched Heat is perhaps best remembered for the fact that despite taking place almost entirely in Sweden and having all Swedish cast, all the characters speak English. This makes for some fantastically clumsy dialogue with intonations that do not connect with words just spoken and behaviour that makes one wonder whether these people actually know how normal human beings’ function. It also seems that the screenwriters in their infinite wisdom have decided that no one is allowed to learn anything or as it seems, ever retain a slightest bit of memory of what just happened. At least that is what I think the idea here is, as none of the characters seem to remember being manipulated by an evil entity for more than a hot minute and every time someone turns into a scorched corpse or a ventriloquist dummy comes alive on its own accord, they all freak the fuck out, pointing shotguns at each other. It is just damn lucky that a good slap on a cheek is all that is actually needed to solve most of these situations. Otherwise this story could be a whole lot shorter.
Peter Borg went on to direct another ghostly adventure, Sounds of Silence (1989), but with a much more subdue and logical storyline and actors that actually speak English as their first language, it is not nearly as fun watch. In 1998 he returned to the director’s/writer’s seat and brought out a hillbilly thriller called Rednex the Movie, witch, with a tagline like “A provocative dance in an inappropriate location can be a deadly attraction…” sounds like something I need to see yesterday. Amazingly Scorched Heat did not forge the way for prominent acting careers for any of its stars, Harald Treutiger being a slight exception, as he has since become a quite well-known face in Swedish television (albeit as a presenter and not an actor). I for one would welcome another performance or two by the frantically intense Martin Brandqvist or the passionately abrasive Babs Brinklund, but alas, that is unlikely to happen and must be filed in a sad folder of impossible cinematic dreams.
So, what is my point here? Well, for you to watch Scorched Heat of course! It is terrible in all the right ways, offering sweet, unrelentingly disastrous release from the mind-numbing boredom of everyday life. Watch it! Watch it now!