Bodom is a found footage horror film released in 2014 and is written and directed by Gergö Elekes and József Gallai. The film has the distinction of being the first feature length found footage film produced in Hungary. Structured as a mockumentary, Bodom takes us through the historical record of a series of tragic murders that took place in Finland, 1960. The film centers around two media students at a Finland university that revisit the 1960 crime scene in 2009 as the subject of their graduate thesis.
Bodom opens with the message “On June 4th, 1960, four teenagers went camping at Lake Bodom in Finland. All, but one were killed by dawn.” The message is followed by black and white footage of the original crime scene filmed in 1960.
Next, the mockumentary shifts to 2009, where we are introduced to Annikki (played by Vivien Turzó) and Petari (played by Bence Kovács), media students at a Finland university who chose the 1960 tragedy for their thesis. The mockumentary establishes Annikki and Petari through a series of interviews with a university professor, family members, and acquaintances.
Annikki starts her research of the case by interviewing the sole survivor of the original 1960 event, which she captures as an audio interview. The survivor says “In the last 30 years, 27 girls have disappeared […] And it’s not over yet.”
From here the film cuts to found footage of Annikki and Petari en route to Lake Bodom to film their story at the site of the original 1960 murders. The remainder of Bodom consists primarily of this footage. The found footage covers the duo’s journey to Lake Bodom, the downtrodden cabin they stay in, and interviews with locals who recall the tragic events of 1960 from stories they’ve heard as children. As the story unfolds, Annikki and Petari are the victims of increasingly strange and horrific events that leave us with more questions than answers.
Bodom has the distinction of being the first feature length found footage film produced in Hungary.
Plot and Acting
While not explicitly stated in the film, the 1960 murders at Lake Bodom are real. After having seen the film, I was surprised to learn of the factual underpinnings of the plot. We cannot fault the filmmakers for lack of clarity as it is common practice for found footage films (or any genre for that matter) to open with some variant of the message “this film is based on actual events.” In the case of Bodom, the murders did in fact happen as stated in the film, and had I known this information beforehand, I would have enjoyed the film even more than I already do. I can only assume that the notoriety of this murder case is common knowledge in Finland and the surrounding region – Bodom takes place in Finland, a scant 1,300 miles North East of Hungary.
I caught up with Director Gergö Elekes and asked him about the authenticity of the black and white crime scene footage used in Bodom. Gergö Elekes said “some of the [black and white scenes] were real footage from those days (for example the funeral scenes), and some were shot by us. For example, the audio interview with the only survivor [of the 1960 murders] is completely filmed by us and our actors.”
One thing to note is that Bodom is filmed entirely in Hungarian with English subtitles. While I was able to keep up with the story, the subtitles seemed to fly by rather quickly. Additionally, I found the Finnish character names difficult to pronounce, making the subtitles that much more challenging to keep up with.
The performance of the two main characters and most of the supporting cast is strong, particularly during the documentary style interviews spread throughout the film. However, the portrayal of the two characters Jussi and Inkeri did not come across as strong as the rest of the cast.
As the story unfolds, Annikki and Petari are the victims of increasingly strange and horrific events that leave us with more questions than answers.
The filming reason is one of the most highly scrutinized aspects of a found footage film. If the filming justification lacks plausibility, the found footage suffers. The filming reason reasons employed in Bodom are properly justified for most of the film, but falter in some areas.
Bodom’s documentary style approach is a composite of old crime scene footage, recent video and audio interviews, and “found footage” resulting in an end product that appears relatively authentic. While the documentary approach is tightly woven, the filming reason is questionable for some of the found footage scenes. Midway through the film, Annikki and Petari invite two locals (Jussi and Inkeri) that they had just met to their cabin to discuss the 1960 murders. At some point during the evening, the two guests start filming with Petari’s camera.
The video camera is Petari’s primary tool as a cinematographer, and if something were to happen to the camera, Annikki’s and Petari’s graduate thesis could be placed in jeopardy. One would expect Petari and Annikki to be far more protective of this vital and expensive piece of equipment that contains all their footage, especially after observing Petari’s concerns over the rental car earlier in the film. Overall, the filming reasons employed in Bodom are good. The professional looking documentary style filming used throughout Bodom more than makes up for the issues observed in the “found footage” scenes at the lake.
The very last scene in the film shifts from found footage to narrative filming. Director Gergö Elekes indicates that this change in filming style is by design. Although this approach deviates from found footage, the ending makes sense in the context of the story, answering some questions, but also furthering the mystery behind what actually took place back in 1960.
The cinematography in Bodom is well done. The documentary portion of the film is expertly shot, as is the use of strategically placed interviews to establish the two main characters. The interviews effectively fill in the gaps as the story progresses, serving as a brilliant mechanism to feed information about the characters to the audience on an as-needed basis.