TrustNordisk has acquired international sales rights to the upcoming horror drama “Handling the Dead,” Variety has found out at Haugesund.
Anonymous Content is repping U.S. rights.
Thea Hvistendahl’s feature debut, produced by Kristin Emblem and Guri Neby for Einar Film and currently shooting, will be presented at Helsinki’s Finnish Film Affair’s Nordic Selection sidebar in September. Its first still has also been shared with Variety.
“We are thrilled to be working with Thea and Einar Film on this exciting genre project, [one] that will be spine-chilling and moving at the same time. We believe it has strong appeal both within festivals and distribution,” observed TrustNordisk’s managing director Susan Wendt.
Based on a novel by acclaimed writer John Ajvide Lindqvist – also behind “Let the Right One In” and short story “Border,” later adapted by Ali Abbasi – it will kick off during an especially hot summer day in Oslo, when a strange electric field and collective migraine spread across the city, TVs, lightbulbs and electronics go haywire, and suddenly, it’s all over. Except for one thing: the incident has awoken the newly deceased.
“From the elaborate directorial concept that Thea sent me, I think her vision was more or less perfect. Mentally, conceptually and visually,” said Lindqvist, who wrote the script as well.
“The mere fact that she devoted a densely written page to the behavior, expressions and movement patterns of the undead indicates a huge commitment to getting everything right. She intends to make a zombie film unlike anything seen before. Serious, heartbreaking and very Nordic.”
As noticed by producers Kristin Emblem and Guri Neby, both “Let the Right One In” and “Border” have blown open the boundaries of the horror genre.
“There are probably many reasons why these adaptations have been successful, but John’s writing, the touching and interesting stories he tells, sets them apart,” they told Variety.
“Horror allows for a different view of normalcy. It allows us to question it, which is interesting to explore. In a bizarre way, it’s not only about fear but about love. And hope!”
The story will focus on three families, each struggling with a tragic loss. Mahler and his daughter Anna mourn the too early passing of his grandson. Tora says her final goodbye to her wife at the funeral home and a family of four faces a life without a wife and mother.
Featuring an award-winning Scandinavian cast, it will reunite “The Worst Person in the World” leads Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie, who recently collected Amanda Awards for recent film performances.
“Anders has been part of this project since 2019 and when we saw Renate’s audition, over a year ago, there was no doubt she was the right Anna,” says Thea Hvistendahl.
“I love ‘The Worst Person in the World’ and their work on that film. They are fantastic actors and I’m just really grateful to have them both in ours.”
The cast also includes Bjørn Sundquist, Bente Børsum and Bahars Pars.
Described as a “character-driven horror drama,” the film will deal with questions of mortality and the battle of accepting what we cannot control.
“Regarding the horror genre, I’m mostly intrigued by the atmospheric possibilities that exist within it, and no one is better at it than Lucile Hadžihalilović and Víctor Erice,” adds Hvistendahl, mentioning some of her inspirations. Admitting it’s always the characters and their relationships that “drag” her into a story.
“At its core, the film is about grief and how to deal with the void that arises when you lose someone you love, with the undead being a physical representation of this theme. But it’s also about how we struggle to care and show love for each other.”
Hvistendahl has previously directed documentary “The Monkey and the Mouth” and shorts “Children of Satan” and “Virgins4lyfe,” presented at SXSW.
“After making ‘Children of Satan,’ I realized I love working with elements of horror and the possibilities they give when it comes to setting a tone and atmosphere,” she says. “It’s an emotional but realistic take on the zombie genre.”
“Handling the Undead” is co-produced by Zentropa Sweden. It was supported by the Norwegian Film Institute, Swedish Film Institute, Film i Väst, Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Oslo Film Fond.
Local distribution will be handled by Nordisk Film Distribution, with an. expected local release set for fall 2023.