One of the films that really caught our eye in the Frightfest line-up was Swedish entry Videoman, a throwback of sorts that leans on the current 80s fad to good effect.

Now, my liking for the film may have been clouded by the fact that my first job out of uni was to run the VHS department in my local HMV, or by the fact that director Kristian Soderstrom has claimed Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle (aka the best horror film you probably haven’t seen) as one of his favourites – but I lapped up pretty much every second of this tale of a down-on-his-luck guy, about to be evicted from his basement packed with VHS tapes and thrown into a modern world he can’t really get his head round.

So much so in fact, that I collared Kristian and asked him to answer some of our questions.

Here goes…

Q. Can you tell us about the genesis of the project – how did Videoman come about?

The starting point of this film was me meeting a video store owner who had not taken a vacation for 14 years. He seemed to be imprisoned by his passion (films). The thought of how something you love can lead to loneliness and exclusion was something that was really interesting to me. This was many years ago. I wrote a script that went into my drawer. In 2015 I had made up my mind to make my feature debut no matter what, after a couple of years slaving away making commercials and corporate films. I was looking for something that could be made cheap. After crossing paths with Stefan Sauk I came to think of the video store owner and how Stefan was born to play this guy. I wrote a new script placing this character in the society of today.

Q. The film certainly fits into that ‘retro’ vibe that is popular at the moment – was there any particular reasons for that?

The retro ”vibe” has been much appreciated by me. An obsession with the 80s has been growing in my mind for some time. I guess it has to do with me becoming nostalgic over childhood memories. Videoman has two main characters being psychologically trapped by their past, the 80s, because that was the best years of their lifes. I really don’t know if my nostalgia created these characters or if it was the other way around.

Q. This is especially true of the soundtrack, which is full of 80s synth pop – the music is a definite strong point of the film I felt…

The music is a strong point, definitely. My love for analogue electronic music goes back a long way. It came from the movies of John Carpenter and the computer game music of Ben Daglish. Then I went back to Kraftwerk and so on. I’ve been wanting to put this kind of music in movies for years. The synthwave movement knocked me out. After obsessing over the ”Drive” soundtrack I was constantly looking up new artists on Spotify. When I realized that one of my favourites, Waveshaper, was Swedish I had my producer chase him down. Waveshaper brought me Robert Parker. With these guys on board Lakeshore Records became interested in releasing a soundtrack. Beside the score work of these synthwave greats I wanted to have songs with singing in them as well. I wanted to resurrect the 80s way of putting together an album with score and pop songs. Back then film music could be best selling albums. Samantha Fox does a song called ”Hot Boy” written by Italo disco maistro Johan Agebjörn. We made a music video for that one. A fun piece of 80s cheesecake.

Q. Alan Jones described the film as ‘Mike Leigh meets Dario Argento’ and I think there is truth to that. The film is about two people finding their role in modern life in many ways. I wouldn’t say Videoman is a horror film really, but a film made for (and to be especially enjoyed by) horror fans – do you agree?

Yes I agree. It’s not a horror film. It’s rather a black comedy lending tone from genre cinema, mainly giallo. I love well defined characters and I love the mood in horror films. I also like genre bending films. Finally, I love Dario Argento and I love Mike Leigh.

Q. Can you talk us through the casting?

After casting Stefan we were searching for the female lead. Lena was the first and only one I saw. She just blew me away. Stefan and Lena both were big names in the 80s and 90s. This struck me after I cast them. That was very exciting because it felt like life imitating art. Videoman is kind of a comeback for both of them, at least regarding movies, they’ve been busy doing theatre work. Beside these guys I wanted to cast big names in small roles, hence Martin Wallström, Amanda Ooms, Sven Wollter and Morgan Alling, who is really big in Sweden at the moment. Opposite these guys I wanted to have amateur actors. I think this mix is very exciting and it helps the realism.

Kristian Soderstrom with lead actor Stefan Sauk

Q. The videos themselves are a periphery character in the film really – how did you come across that many VHS tapes? Was all the 80s tech yours, or did you have to rally around friends, collectors etc?

The cellar where the main character Ennio lives actually exists, that played a big part in me deciding on this project. It would have been very though and expensive to build this location from scratch. The cellar belongs to no one other then the video store owner that first made me write “Videoman”. So this time, art imitating life. Apart from this it was a rally around friends and VHS collectors.

Q. That 80s throwback vibe is certainly on a high at the moment – a company in the UK is even releasing a collector’s series of blu-rays in VHS packaging for example. Why do you think this is?

I think “Drive” and “Stranger Things” played a part, showing off the coolness of the 80s to new generations. I also think people like myself, that grew up during the 80s bottle fed by VHS culture among other things, are starting to reminisce. Technology are moving so fast today, artifacts like these are not around in our daily lives. Maybe this enhance the feeling of nostalgia for the 80s generation.

Q. How exciting is it to have Videoman screening at Frightfest?

I am very excited. For years I’ve been reading about FrightFest in the likes of Darkside Magazine, fantasizing about being a part of this event. It’s a dream coming true.

Q. Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m writing on a new script. It’s more of a straight forward horror piece, still with a focus on characters and a bit of black humour though. I would like to do it in english, hopefully with a UK based producer. I’m very fond of British culture. I feel like José Ramon Larraz in that regard, a great director by the way.

 

Videoman screens at Frightfest on Sunday, August 26

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle