Norway is an offbeat and atmospheric 2014 Greek vampire odyssey from first time director Yannis Veslemes. Set in 1984 the film follows Scandinavian vampire Zanos (Vangelis Mourikis) who arrives in Athens looking for a good time but falls down a rabbit hole with some locals forcing him to make a difficult moral decision. The Blu-ray from Terror Vision and Vinegar Syndrome sports an impressive A/V package with enough special features to sink your teeth into. If you’re looking for a new midnight movie this is it - Worth A Look.
“Since when do the damned wear shiny shoes?”
Zano (Vangelis Mourikis, Chevalier) is a burnt-out and disheveled vampire taking the train to Athens hoping to meet up with his elusive contact Jimmy. He hits up a few dance clubs looking for a good time and some “warm girls” to satisfy his needs. Zano dances the night away gyrating to the electro beats pulsating through the crowds of weird characters surrounding him. Eventually, he spies a prostitute named Alice (Alexia Kaltsiki, Face Control) whose look reminds me of Debbie Harry in Videodrome. The two meet up with dope dealer Peter (Daniel Bolda) and the trio head off into the fluorescent glare of the night. Alice needs Zano for an important mission that takes them into a bizarre underbelly hidden in the mountains. What he encounters will test his moral compass and cause him to make a difficult decision.
Norway is all style over substance leaning hard into the visual language to depict the neon-soaked nightlife of '80s Greece. Director Yannis Veslemes gives us a basic frame for the narrative but is rarely concerned with maintaining it through the 73-minute runtime. Cinematographer Hristos Karamanis reigns in what could’ve been a grungy mess and imbues the chaos with bold lighting and striking colors. Think Mandy with a migraine-induced hangover and you’ve got an idea of what to expect. Rear projection and model railway miniatures give the production a retro elegance that is oddly comforting. The film reminds me of Paul King’s Bunny and the Bull or his work on The Mighty Boosh in which a mixed media approach offers an arresting and unusual take on the conventional material.
Performances are memorable yet fleeting as the scenes seemingly disappear into the ether after they’re over. Vangelis Mourikis brings big energy to Zano but allows the character to float through the scenes rather than overpower them. It’s a fascinating performance from the celebrated Greek actor that plays heavily on the subtlety of an otherwise chaotic persona. Supporting cast Alexia Kaltsiki, Markos Lezes, and Daniel Bolda are heavily committed to their characters while still keeping their performances subdued yet compelling.
Veslemes provided the score which operates as an anchor of the feature. You can tell he had a lot of fun working on the cues and beats striving to find that moment where early '80s electro took over from '70s disco bops. The dedication to the music is clearly evident making the experience exciting for world music nerds. In the interview segment on the disc, we learn that Michael Mann and John Carpenter were inspirations for the music in the film. If that doesn’t draw your interest I don’t know what would!
Norway subverts vampire mythology by presenting a sloppy disco gyrating bloodsucker in place of the conventionally elegant and well-dressed demon of the night. Zano’s motivations and journey aren’t too dissimilar from other vamps in the genre but his moral compass and style offer something different and interesting. Embraced as a midnight movie in Greece, Norway would be an excellent addition to anyone’s weird late night lineup. The eclectic style is a love letter to Greek cinemas, clubs, and cafes of the '80s all wrapped in a seedy electric blanket.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Norway arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Terror Vision and Vinegar Syndrome. The BD-25 disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with double-sided artwork If you order from Vinegar Syndrome you pick up a slick exclusive limited edition slipcover. Loading the disc offers the TerrorVision logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options.
Norway arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080p AVC encoded HD image in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The stylized HD image presents the dark underbelly world with scorching fluorescents and dulled primaries. Reds and greens are strong but scorch the color balance often. Multicolored blood spurts punctuate the frame confidently. Blacks are inky with moderate detail within shadows.
While most scenes are intensely lit, image depth and clarity are still maintained. Fine detail is evident in facial lines and features through closeups and medium shots. Skin tones are even throughout the feature though stylish choices keep us from getting a good clear look at anyone’s face. Set decorations and costuming gradually reveal detail through the hazy atmosphere makes it difficult at times. Norway is heavy on style which oozes from every frame much to the delight of this reviewer. Though image clarity and detail are constantly in artistic flux the overall image is surprisingly solid. Watch in a darkened room to appreciate all the small details hidden within the scenes.
The sole audio track for Norway is an immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 that compliments the visuals of the film. The mix leans heavily on atmospherics which infects the surrounds and front channels with its everlasting life. LFE is used heavily in cues and scoring elements though it never overpowers the texture producing a balanced mix. Dialogue is clear and clean without hiss or pop detected. Some exchanges are difficult to discern in club sequences. English subtitles are available.
Terror Vision and Vinegar Syndrome give Norway enough special features for those interested in diving further into this offbeat film. Start with the commentary track then move through the features.
All style and character, Norway gives us compelling themes and visuals without worrying about the storytelling. Looking like a Paul King vampire flick with miniatures, music, and weird humor, the film is a trippy ride that explores an alternate vampire mythology during the waning disco days of early '80s Greece. The Blu-ray from TerrorVision and Vinegar Syndrome sports an excellent A/V package for the offbeat flick with enough special features for fans. If you’re looking for the next weird midnight movie this is it - Worth A Look.