Anything Hollywood can do, we can do, uh, just as well" seems to be the gauntlet thrown down by "Dead in 3 Days," Austria's first teen slasher movie. One of the hits in Locarno's Piazza Grande screenings this year, thoroughly generic pic piles on the thrills and chills, and manages to turn the country's usually placid, postcard-pretty landscape into a repository of fear and dread.

Anything Hollywood can do, we can do, uh, just as well” seems to be the gauntlet thrown down by “Dead in 3 Days,” Austria’s first teen slasher movie. One of the hits in Locarno’s Piazza Grande screenings this year, thoroughly generic pic piles on the thrills and chills, and manages to turn the country’s usually placid, postcard-pretty landscape into a repository of fear and dread. All that’s missing is a sense of ironic humor, but biz looks to be bright in German-speaking territories as well as in markets open to non-Anglo genre fare. For fests, it’s a late-night curio.

Set around the semi-Alpine lake of Ebensee, east of Salzburg, pic opens with an unknown man hanging himself and the classic device of a blood-spattered girl staggering out of a forest and mumbling, “Help Nina.”

Flashback four days earlier and a bunch of self-centered high-schoolers, on the lam after passing their college entrance exams, accidentally hits a deer with their car. One by one, they then receive text messages warning “In 3 days you’ll be dead!”

First to receive the nasty SMS is petite blonde Nina (Sabrina Reiter), who initially dismisses it as a joke but goes to the cops when her b.f., Martin (Laurence Rupp), disappears at a party. What Nina doesn’t know is that Martin has been abducted to a boatyard by a mysterious hood (Michael Rastl) and dumped in the lake. Another of their gang, Patrick (Julian Sharp), has also gone AWOL.

In a well-staged, atmospheric sequence, the kids find Martin’s body floating under the water the next day, and local cop Kogler (Andreas Kiendl) finally feels guilty about not raising the alarm earlier. After Nina is abducted, and just about escapes with her life, the remaining teens remember an incident from their youth that may have a bearing on the murders. Finale, in an old wooden house, is genuinely thrilling — as much for its offhanded approach to horror as the horror itself.

Shot in cold colors, tightly edited and with effective use of closeup camerawork in the scenes of violence, film moves with a sense of purpose that doesn’t leave any time for auds to question the plot holes. Use of thick Austrian dialect (which may require some subtitling for regular German-speakers) heightens the feel of sleepy smalltown life, separating pic even from German teen slashers (of which there have been many).

Most of the largely young, unknown cast hit their marks, though Reiter stands out as the quietly spunky, can-do heroine.

Dead In 3 Days

Austria

Production

A Filmladen Filmverlag release of an Allegro Film production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Helmut Grasser. Directed by Andreas Prochaska. Screenplay, Thomas Baum, Prochaska, Uli Bree.

Crew

Camera (color), David Slama; editor, Karin Hartusch; music, Matthias Weber; art director, Claus Rudolf Amler; costume designer, Max Wohlkoenig; sound (Dolby Digital), Heinz Ebner, Bernhard Maisch; assistant director, Werner Schoettke; casting, Nicole Schmied. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 6, 2006. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Sabrina Reiter, Julia Rosa Stoeckl, Michael Steinocher, Nadja Vogel, Laurence Rupp, Julian Sharp, Amelie Jarolim, Andreas Kiendl, Susi Stach, Michael Rastl. (Austrian dialect)
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