There’s a scene in VampyrVidar (Vidar the Vampire) where the titular character (played by Thomas Aske Berg, who also co-writes/directs alongside Fredrik Waldeland) prays for an escape from his boring, Christian, farmstead lifestyle. In it, he asks the Almighty to help him “drink, fuck, and fight” his way to freedom. Vidar’s call is answered shortly after; in the following scene he meets Jesus (Brigt Skrettingland) in a barn, who sexually assaults Vidar, turning him into a vampire as a result. Unfortunately, it’s the apex moment in what is otherwise a fairly average, but nonetheless pleasing, comedy from Norway.
Up until we meet rapist-vampire Jesus, the film tells the story of a repressed bachelor who dreams of living life to the fullest. He’s 33 years old, still lives at home, and spends his days milking cows and taking care of his mother. His life has consisted of monotonous routine, devoid of romance, with sprinklings of humiliation throughout, but his interaction with horny Jesus could spell the fresh start he needs. So, they both move to the city of Stavanger to party and meet women. However, Vidar’s luck is still as rotten as ever, and the fulfilment he felt as a mortal is only worsened as a member of the blood-sucking undead. What ensues is a story of the quest to meet women, experiencing further rejection, and being forced to watch Christ get all the women. There’s some murder and incestuous adult breastfeeding in there as well, like all good movies should have, but not enough to keep the shocks coming in ample supply.
There is plenty to admire about Berg and Waldeland’s debut feature-length, though. The film’s sheer disregard for political correctness is admirable, while the jabs it takes at the nation’s right-wing political and religious institutions provide a few laughs at the establishment. But Vidar the Vampire isn’t a movie with a lot to say, nor does it have to be; it strives for pure entertainment and succeeds for the most part. It isn’t always as offensive as it tries to be, but its dark heart is in the right place nonetheless and the film remains at least mildly amusing throughout.
With lines like “fuck abstinence” and “don’t waste love on the unworthy,” Jesus is the star of the show. This isn’t the son of God we know from the Bible; he’s now out to sow his wild oats and live it up as a creature of the night. The film, however, can be chalked up as a missed opportunity as it fails to do anything spectacularly deranged with this idea besides the aforementioned barn seediness. The rest of the film portrays God’s baby boy as a smooth talking ladykiller whose ability to turn water into wine goes down a treat with the opposite sex and saves him a fortune at the bar.
Vidar is also a likeable protagonist, and his dissatisfaction at life coupled with lonely immortality is reminiscent of the humor found in the far-superior Kiwi vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows (2014). Berg is able to elicit some sympathy for his character while also providing a few chuckles at his expense. His charisma also carries proceedings during the film’s less than stellar moments. If there was a steady supply of better material to work with, his performance would be more to write home about. That said, the actor does have strong comedic prowess and it’ll be interesting to see what he does going forward.
Norwegian cinema has produced some standout genre fare in recent years, especially since the turn of the century and beyond. Cold Prey (2006), Troll Hunter (2010), Thale (2012), Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (2014) and The Wave (2015) are notable examples, but it is a region littered with hidden treasures worth scouring. Vidar the Vampire isn’t on par with those movies, but it boasts enough mindless comedy and silly moments to appeal to a varied crowd. It might not be the type of movie that helps their national cinema coruscate on the world map, but it’s a good effort in its own right. As far as serviceable entertainment goes, you could do a lot worse than Vidar the Vampire. Some scenes contain more bite than others, but it has enough endearing qualities to resonate with viewers looking for something slightly mischievous with a little bit of heart.
Vidar the Vampire recently played at FilmQuest Festival