Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

2009 / 90m - Iceland
Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre poster

Oddities, I like 'em. If you're telling there's an Icelandic horror flick set on a whale watching boat coming along then my interest is sparked. Often films like these won't meet my expectations but once in a while a film comes along that dares to take it even one step further. Enter Kemp's weird little horror flick.

screen cap of Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

My knowledge of Icelandic films is almost non-existent. I've seen the modern classics like 101 Reykjavik and Noi Alba͂­noi, but that's about it. What those films left me though is a clear sense of their somewhat strange, dry and morbid sense of humor. In combination with the awesome title and some great promotional artwork it sure got me excited.

Now I don't mind a good genre film as much as the next guy, but I was a little worried it would be dragged down by usual horror conventions. And to some extent, it is. Apart from the original setting and strange ensemble cast the film is a pretty straight-forward, playing like a streamlined mix of straight American slasher horror and morbid European weirdness. Think Severance and The Cottage meeting TCM on a boat in Iceland.

As for the story, a pretty strange mix of characters (quite a few nationalities present) come together for a little trip of whale watching. They all end up on a boat of former whale hunters who aren't too happy with this lovey-dovey industry prohibiting them from doing their job. I guess you can imagine what happens after that.

screen cap of Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

Visually RWWM is a pretty good film though nothing out of the ordinary. Kemp's movie features a pretty grim and washed out look with some nice lighting and coloring work, apart from that most of the camera work is purely functional. It's stylish and atmospheric, just not very noteworthy or having any lasting effect.

The soundtrack is a bit more in your face, especially during one of the key scenes where the main character starts singing Bjork's It's Oh So Quiet. From there on the film start to take bolder steps away from typical genre film making. It's also fun to see a reprise of that song during the end credits, mixed with some pretty harsh metal music.

One nifty side effect of having all these nationalities on board is that you get a pretty broad range of accents. It can make it a little hard to understand what everyone's saying, but I have a soft spot for that. Acting is pretty decent too, no annoying youngsters for a change, so that's all good. Hansen's (the original Leatherface) role might be a little small, but I guess he's just there as a tribute to Kemp's influences.

screen cap of Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

The cool thing about our whale watching cast is that none of them are actually good guys. Just about everyone's an asshole and it's not simply good vs bad, especially when the watchers start turning on the crew, and themselves. This makes it a lot more entertaining to watch and a lot harder to predict who's going to die next.

One more word of advise though. The comedic nature of the film might be hard to discard, but the jokes can be a little tough to spot at times and don't really fall in the category of 'politically correct'. If you don't appreciate the poetic justice of a fat Japanese guy harpooned down while swimming in the sea, this film might not be entirely for you.

Kemp's film starts off pretty typical, but with each scene things get stranger and more awkward. There are some awesome twists, some true expectation killers and just as many elements to break through the typical cliches. RWWM doesn't go completely overboard, but its little edge gives the film such a spin that it is convincing enough to put it way above most other genre outings. Recommended stuff.