Despite the conceptual novelty promised by a 16th-century Finnish supernatural thriller, there’s scant entertainment value in the disjointed, dreary “Sauna.” Following helmer Antti-Jussi Annila’s martial-arts odyssey, “Jade Warrior,” this equally local genre take emerges as not quite enough of a horror film, or anything else. Tale of postwar diplomatic emissaries encountering dark forces is high on gloomy portent, low on action, scares and plot cohesion. Prospects are damp.

It’s 1595. Long, brutal combat between Russia and Sweden has ended. Middle-ground Finland is being divvied up; two brothers born here are part of a party mapping new borders. Uneasy with peace, pitiless warrior Eerik (Ville Vertanen) fears having to atone for the 73 lives he’s taken thus far. Gentle junior sib Knut (Tommi Eronen) is a scientist, or as much of one as the times can claim. After Eerik needlessly attacks a peasant family, apparitions appear, escalating as the travelers discover an uncharted village (population, 73). Iiro Kuttner’s script often leaves uncertain if, why or how characters have died. Aiming for the enigmatic, the pic instead feels patchy and frustrating. Perfs and tech and design contributions are OK.



  • Production: A Bronson Club production. (International sales: Blind Spot Pictures, Helsinki.) Produced by Tero Kaukomaa, Jesse Fryckman. Directed by Antti-Jussi Annila. Screenplay, Iiro Kuttner.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Henri Blomberg; editor, Joona Louhivuori; music, Panu Aaltio; production designers, Vladimir Bedrich Dvorak, Antti Nikkinen, Ville Vauras. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 4, 2008. Finnish, Russian dialogue. Running time: 83 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Ville Vertanen, Tommi Eronen, Viktor Klimenko, Sonja Petajajaravi, Rain Tolk, Kati Outinen, Kari Ketonen.
  • Music By: