‘The Damned’ Review: Thordur Palsson’s Horror Flick

Horror is one of the most difficult genres to tap into. It’s really challenging to keep viewers at the edge of their seats with genuinely scary elements. However, every once in a while, we get to see a movie that truly captures the essence of the genre and takes us on a journey that’s terrifying yet thought-provoking. Thordur Palsson’s (of The Valhalla Murders) highly anticipated horror flick The Damned had its world premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as a Spotlight Narrative feature and is one such unexpected gem. Although the film’s premise might initially appear familiar, the events that transpire over its 89-minute runtime are eerily magnificent and unsettling, leaving viewers feeling like they need some reflective time once the film concludes.

The story of The Damned

The Damned chronicles the journey of a young woman named Eva (played by Odessa Young), in the 19th century who lives in a remote fishing village. She’s dealing with the loss of her husband. Even though she has managed to carry on, things are getting darker because survival in such harsh conditions is getting tougher. In the movie’s opening scene, we see Odessa walking through the snow-covered landscapes and trying to make viewers realize how things are so bleak where they live.

As the story progresses, we see Odessa and a group of men trying to survive a harsh winter. Supplies are going low, and they have to set a plan for how to get through. One night, they decide to go into the sea and get supplies from a ship that has recently submerged in the sea. However, things get terrifying when some of the members of the ship try getting on their boats. Since that moment, things start to go downhill for all of them, with death looming ominously at every turn in their lives.

Thordur Palsson’s movie makes you believe in evil forces

While watching the movie, I kept thinking about a phrase from Game of Thrones: “The night is dark and full of terrors.”. And I think, after that show, if any other project that has made me believe in that thought, is Palsson’s eerily breath-taking The Damned. Although the movie is about survival, the terrors etched in the eyes of Odessa’s character make you believe how dreadful and horrifying things actually are.

They are living in a place where anyone can freeze to death. This reminder of fragile mortality looms over them. You might think that you have seen something like this before, but the way The Damned has been shot and executed is way more unique than what we expect from stories like these. The presence of evil forces is so terrifying that you might have to pause the movie to take a breath, but you would still come back a moment later to see what happens next.

Evocative cinematography helps take The Damned up a notch

The movie’s atmospheric tension is palpable and beautifully captured through its evocative cinematography, thanks to Eli Arenson. It helps make the movie a roaring success. The stark visual storytelling enhanced the story’s emotional gravity, pulling the audience into the villagers’ plight. The desolate landscapes evoke feelings of isolation and vulnerability, heightening the tension and sense of dread essential to horror. On the other hand, the symbolic use of the environment also helps in deepening the impact of the story unfolding on screen.

One of the most brilliant aspects of the film is how it never manages to wander from its true purpose. The film wants to talk about human morality and survival, and it does that with utter precision. The writing by Palsson and screenwriter Jamie Hannigan is the film’s soul. The script brilliantly details the isolated 19th century Icelandic fishing village, creating a world that is both beautiful and extremely horrifying. The writing is so descriptive that viewers can feel the same sense of dread as the characters. It doesn’t have to rely on jump scares to make you feel that you are watching a horror film. It explores the theme of the supernatural with a lot of depth and subtlety.

Odessa Young is a monumental picture of grief in The Damned

As far as acting is concerned, Odessa Young knocks it out of the park with her phenomenal skills. Her performance is nothing short of monumental in terms of how she conveys her emotions by speaking so less. Even then, she effectively communicates Eva’s grief, resilience, and desperation, making her character’s journey deeply relatable. Make no mistake, performing a character like Eva is not easy because the character undergoes significant changes, and Young masterfully adapts to the situations and delivers a performance that’s gritty and nuanced. Meanwhile, Joe Cole is as brilliant as Young in the role of Daniel. His chemistry with Young gives us hope that people can expect warmth in this cold and dreadful world.

All in all, The Damned is a testament to Thordur Palsson’s creativity and impeccable storytelling. The film’s end will make you think about how fear can be so overwhelming that it forces us to lose our grip on reality. Additionally, it is a haunting exploration of human resilience. The Damned is undoubtedly one of the most psychologically intense movies to have come out in recent years and one that will stay with you for a very, very long time.

The Damned recently premiered at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival.

Learn more about Thordur Palsson’s movie at the Tribeca site for the title.

You might also like…

The Strangers Chapter 1 Review Banner

The Strangers: Chapter 1’ is a Bloody Good Slasher Film