Swedish Death Metal Author Daniel Ekeroth on ‘Sensationsfilms’ Book
After causing major waves in the scene with his ‘Swedish Death Metal’ book, author and musician Daniel Ekeroth has set his sights on the exploitation film genre. ‘Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema’ is Ekeroth’s new tome, exploring the underground Swedish movie scene of the ’60s to the early ’90s.
Ekeroth dives into his subject matter with the kind of attention to detail that even celebrated documentarian Ken Burns could appreciate. In a recent review of ‘Swedish Sensationfilms,’ the Austin Chronicle gushed, “This encyclopedic overview of the grimy-great underbelly of Swedish filmmaking reveals more delightfully depraved and downright perverse ‘sensationsfilms’ than possibly even Lisbeth Salander could countenance.”
Noisecreep caught up with the busy Ekeroth to find out what drew him to the seedier side of cinema.
Most Noisecreep readers will be familiar with you from your excellent ‘Swedish Death Metal’ book. How did you initially get into film?
Even though music was my main interest as a kid, film was always there too. I stayed up late to catch whatever horror film there was on TV — which were about 5 a year [laughter]. When the VCR came around in the early ’80s, I watched as many sick films as I could get my hands on. Back in those days, all you could get was basically low budget exploitation films, since the major [studios] initially refused to release their films on video as they thought they would lose money. What morons! Still, it was all great for me as I was introduced to the mad world of exploitation cinema.
In 1980, a heated debate started in Sweden about video violence. This was way before the “Video Nasty” stuff in the UK. The politicians actually argued that the VCR itself should be banned, but eventually they just banned the films. What this created was of course a rabid group of video collectors who wanted to track down all the banned titles. This later grew into an international community, [people] who traveled the world in search of uncut tapes. People in Australia soon realized that the Swedish release of ‘The Burning’ was the only uncut version in the world, and we Swedes had to go to Greece in search of an uncut ‘Cannibal Holocaust.’ These were mad times, with hell of a lot more daredevil explorations than in these boring internet days. As you can tell, I was one of those sick bastards — and still am!
What were some of the movies from your home country that made an early impression on you?
I saw ‘Smutsiga Fingrar’ when I was very young, and that sick nasty bitch of a film sure made an impression. The doomed and dirty atmosphere really made me at unease, and we all love that feeling, don’t we? I was also affected by the street violence film ‘Stockholmsnatt’ when they showed it in my school. It made me develop a fear of the city of Stockholm, a fear that is still with me to some degree even today.
Many of the films you cover in ‘Swedish Sensationsfilms’ were not well received by critics, yet some of them did great business at the box office. In general, what issue did journalists have with these movies?
Back in the ’60s and ’70s culture journalists were generally self-obsessed intellectuals, who would not like anything but “high-art.” They shunned the low budgets, the incomplete narratives, the blatant sensationalism… well, everything. But you know what; such boring farts can just go fuck themselves! You know how it is — a bad review in the mainstream media usually means that the product is good!
Is the government in Sweden supportive of its left-of-center filmmakers?
They sure were in the late ’60s, as when minister of communication Olof Palme ordered ‘Dom Kallar Oss Mods’ to be released uncut, though the censors had banned it. Nowadays the Swedish film industry is not very political anymore; it’s all about the money.
Are there any current Swedish directors that are clearly influenced by the wave of films you cover in the book?
I would say Lukas Moodysson, even though he doesn’t direct much anymore. His film ‘Tillsammans’ is basically a remake of Calvin Floyd’s ‘Sams’ (1974). A director like Tomas Alfredsson [of 'Let the Right One In' fame] might be a bit inspired by the old days, but he has a moody side that was not really present back then. I also think that acclaimed music video director Jonas Åkerlund might have taken some inspiration from the dirty Swedish films he must have seen when he was growing up. Just in case you didn’t already know, Jonas has made videos for Madonna and Metallica and used to play drums in Bathory.
It’s important to point out that Swedish people don’t really know about these movies nowadays. A lot of people from Sweden would have the same kind of reaction as a random American who is reading the book – “Whoa, I’ve never heard of any of these movies.” Sensationsfilms is in many ways a forgotten art form and I’m happy that people seem to be curious about the movies in the book.
For our readers that might be curious about Swedish films from the late ’60s and early ’70s, what are some titles that you can recommend?
If you haven’t seen Bo A Vibenius ‘Thriller – A Cruel Picture,’ you must start there. It is by far the most extreme rape-revenge movie of all time, and was clearly the inspiration for Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ films. After that you must seek out Vibenius other film ‘Breaking Point,’ but it might be hard to track down. That one is one of the weirdest films ever made period, and you have to see it to believe it! Other titles of importance include ‘Smutsiga Fingrar,’ ‘Jag en Kvinna 2,’ ‘Ninja Mission,’ ‘Stockholmsnatt,’ ‘Jorden Runt med Fanny Hill’ — there are too many to mention!
Just give some of them a shot, because I really think this weird field of cinema deserves some more attention. Just make sure to rent the films with the dustiest covers the next time you are at the video store [laughs].
Watch the trailer for ‘Thriller: A Cruel Picture’