The sparsely populated northern European country of Norway is the home of large reindeer herds, fjords, the birthplace of black metal, and many quality horror films. A list of notable Norwegian horror titles includes the fable Thale (2012), the excellent, found-footage film Troll Hunter (2010), The Lords of Chaos (2018), and the newly discovered Lake of the Dead (1958), part of Severin Films’ compendium of folk horror.
Director Geir Greni’s 2019 All Must Die is a so-so, Norwegian take on the slasher genre. The set-up of a group of bridesmaids planning to scare the horror-movie-loving bride during a bachelorette weekend at a deserted cabin in the woods (what could go wrong?) had great promise but delivered little.
*This Review Contains Slight Spoilers
The movie begins with Gina (Viktoria Winge), distraught after an argument with her fiance, leaving work early. She is attacked by three masked men and thrown into the back of a waiting van. This was a setup by Gina’s friends as their first attempt to scare her. It’s also the first of many red herrings to distract the audience. Greni is playing a game of cat and mouse with his viewer to lure them, like the film’s victims, into a trap.
Gina’s bridesmaids are the definition of frenemies. What they really want to do is to transform Gina from the star of the weekend and the wedding into a victim of a weekend of terror. In the van, there is a subtle current of tension among them as they jockey to be closest to Gina. Their plan, to dress her provocatively in a tight dress and heels and force her to endure a series of horror related tasks, comes across almost as a passive-aggressive and voyeuristic punishment.
Her enthusiastic willingness to take part in the games, even after they quickly go too far, reflects her philosophy that the unobserved life is not worth living. Greni quietly returns to this theme as Gina and her friends struggle with their narcissistic exhibitionism, jealous of her “perfect” life and wanting to live it themselves.
The themes of narcissism and voyeurism are hinted at, then abandoned. They first appear in the opening credits as an unnamed observer meticulously examines a series of pictures of Gina and her fiance. Are the pictures wedding announcements? Are they for social media posts? Perhaps they are evidence of some sort of creepy obsession? Later, in a bizarre gesture, a bridesmaid shows a cringe-worthy video of Gina’s ex-boyfriends.
The men seem to have not gotten over their breakup and they awkwardly try to congratulate her on upcoming nuptials. And finally, during the movie’s last moments as the camera pans over the carnage of the weekend, Gina’s voice promises that next time, everything will be perfect.
Greni and Robert Næss’s script does not give the cast much to do beyond their basic roles. There is almost no exposition to provide clues about what holds the group together other than their unexplainable attachment to Gina. As for Gina, the movie never shows why she is such an attractive personality to her friends. Instead, the narrative focuses on who among the rapidly dwindling cast is behind the killings.
All Must Die takes a long time to get to the killings. The first half of the 82-minute film is spent watching the group drive to the lake and a really lukewarm moonlight, skinny dip. When the action starts, it happens off-screen. There is a pretty high body count and some shocking scenes of mayhem, including a barn full of bodies hanging on meat hooks, beheadings, throat-slitting, and death by ice auger. Yet the presentation is fairly tame.
On the bright side, the movie is well shot. Norway’s beautiful forests and lakes look spectacular and the night shots are well-lit. While there is very little on-screen action, nothing gets lost because of murky, under-lit scenes.
Leaving behind most of the visceral thrills of a typical slasher, All Must Die devotes itself to solving the mystery behind the murders. At heart, the movie is an interesting, not so nasty slasher, the kind you could watch with your parents.
All Must Die is currently available on multiple Digital & VOD, Courtesy of Breaking Glass Entertainment
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I am a lifelong lover of horror who delights in the uncanny and occasionally writes about it. My writing has appeared at DIS/MEMBER and in Grim magazine. I am also in charge of programming at WIWLN’s Insomniac Theater, the Internet’s oldest horror movie blog written by me. The best time to reach me is before dawn.