“Alena” – a stylish horror movie that shows the true horror of bullying
Horror movies can be striking. They can be beautiful. They can be topical. They can spur conversation. Alena is all of these and more.
Arriving from Sweden comes this movie that touches on several subjects, not the least of which is the serious issue of bullying. Our title character, played beautifully by Amalia Holm (The Hidden Child) is a student arriving mid-term at a very prestigious all girl’s private school. We don’t know what her background is, except that it is a troubled one. She also comes from a different economic and social class than her new classmates, and that is only where her troubles begin. As she desperately seeks to try to fit in she finds herself on the receiving end of some very undeserved bullying simply because she is different. However she does receive some solace in the early part of the film through a friend named Josefin, except she is not only Alena’s friend. She appears as her protector, especially as things start to go even worse for Alena.
This movie is based on a graphic novel of the same title by Swedish artist Kim W. Anderson, and while it may not be readily available here in the states, there are a few panels that can be seen on the Internet clearly indicating that director Daniel di Grado wanted to create a film that is loyal to the story, images, and spirit of Anderson’s work. With the casting of this film, to some very specific scenes, there was clearly an attempt to literally bring this story and it’s artistic vision to the big screen.
Bullying can be a very sensitive issue in today’s society. With children of all ages committing suicide due to the intense bullying they are forced to receive on a daily basis, trying to create a film that addresses it without becoming maudlin or overly preachy is a difficult task, but to tell that story in the guise of a horror film allows for the true horror of bullying to be told in an engaging manner. Even Alena’s chief nemesis in this film, Filippa, played with just the right amount of subtle genius by Molly Nutley (Thicker Than Water) is subjected to her own daily horror, demonstrating the horrible cycle that bullying can take. For all of her aggressive, mean-spirited attacks on Alena, we can’t completely dislike Filippa as she is clearly a victim in her own right. That’s not to say that she is absolved of her actions, but the film does show that perhaps a new approach needs to be taken in order to address this terrible social issue.
While horror movies have shown a steady level of popularity in the US, it’s in other countries that they can elevate it to a new artistic level of beauty, and Alena is no exception. This is not an art film such as Lilith’s Awakening, but there are some scenes of wonderful artistry through the use of camera angles, and especially with powerfully colorful lighting. What also helps to set this film apart is how it causes the viewer to continually second guess where the story is going to go, and while we here at TG2 Studios did guess at which direction this film may go, it was still revealed in a way that was eminently satisfying, but didn’t take away anything from this film.
You can learn more about this film by going to the website Alena, and there is also a page (in Swedish) on Facebook. You can listen to our interview with the director, Daniel di Grado, in TG Geeks Webcast Episode 89, and Alena will be screened at this year’s Horrible Imaginings Film Festival on Saturday, September 10th at 2:52 PM as part of the LGBT Block, which is being sponsored by The Two Gay Geeks. Alena is having its premiere in Sweden on August 19, 2016.
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