Hellestads Boarding School is carrying a legend from 100 years ago when three students were murdered. One year ago, a girl named Rebecka committed suicide on the same date. This year, on the annual party which takes place on that day, students begin to turn up dead. Sara, whose working on a writing project about the legend, starts to find clues to what really happened 100 years ago, and to Rebecka.
"Strandvaskaren" is a movie that you, as a Swede, must have heard about. The director made the bleak drama "Ondskan" a year before and ultimately he went on to Hollywood to make "Derailed" with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, and then Stephen King's "1408" with John Cusack. He's one of few Swedish directors to really make it that far. And to be honest, I enjoyed both of his first Hollywood efforts (haven't seen "Shanghai" and "The Rite") as well as "Ondskan". I think Mikael Håfström is a decent enough director. However, "Strandvaskaren" was a failed attempt at making a stereotypical slasher in the vein of Hollywood.
As it always is with slasher movies, "Strandvaskaren" is about teenagers. They live on a boarding school, and of course the school has a legend from 100 years ago where three students were killed and the killer was drowned but never found. The real story in the movie, however, is that a student (Rebecka) committed suicide a year ago by jumping off the roof. This year they are having a party on the same date as both events. Our lead, Sara, is working on a project about the legend and start to find clues about how one of the benificiaries of the school had relatives involved in the 100 year old murders. At the same time people start to die and Sara thinks it has something to do with Rebecka.
The reason I say the real story is about Rebecka is because the legend is just used as a costume. The reasons behind the killings is because of Rebecka's suicide and that's what bothered me the most with this movie. It builds up way too much story, both about the legend and about Rebecka, but it never manages to use the information to the extent that it would've needed. Instead it just drags on for a long time and then eventually it just becomes another whodunit slasher. I mean, I only expected a slasher but when the two stories became such big parts of the movie I kinda thought it would have a reason in the end. But no, it gets boring. They could've went through the legend real quick because.. well, legends in slashers often come in handy when they wanna dress up (this one dresses up as a scarecrow). Other than giving a backstory to the school and give us the typical "Oh snap, he's back!" doubt, it's pointless to work on this one. The story of the suicide is the story behind why people are dying now, and it works with this story fairly well considering we get to find out some about the students who knew her. Had it only done that, and then worked faster as a slasher, then it would've been an okay Hollywood rip-off. Instead it tries to hard to be better than Hollywood, but keeping the Hollywood tradition.
The biggest problem of the movie is indeed the entire story, which makes the movie far from worthwhile. But it's a well made movie and the few atmospheric scenes it has are pretty good. Had it only tried less and dumbed down a notch, then maybe it would've been in class with the movies it wanted to be. For a slasher it lacks slashing. Basicly, it's not a movie I would recommend. How people could call this scary when it came it is a mystery to me. So far it's the worst film I have seen by Mikael Håfström, but since I know he can do much better I wouldn't mind him giving another try on the genre. In Sweden, of course, but that's not gonna happen.