Rift an Icelandic Film ~ A Review

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Photomontage of sevens from Rift. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film

🇮🇸 RIFT 🇮🇸

Rift aka Rökkur (2017) is an Icelandic drama-horror-mystery film available (free) on Prime Video U.K.; Prime, Vudu, AMC Plus, Tubi US; AppleTV Can (buy); Dekcoo Aus. 1hr 51 min. 16+ Cert.


“Months after they broke up, Gunnar receives a strange phone call from his ex-boyfriend, Einar. He sounds distraught, like he’s about to do something terrible to himself. Gunnar drives up to the secluded cabin where Einar is holed up and soon discovers that there’s more going on than he imagined. As the two men come to terms with their broken relationship, some other person seems to be lurking outside the cabin, wanting to get in.” Myrkraverk Productions


Björn Stefánsson as Gunnar
Sigurður Þór Óskarsson as Einar
Guðmundur Ólafsson as Grétar
Aðalbjörg Árnadóttir as Gyða
Anna Eva Steindórsdóttir as Sjáandi (Seer)
Jóhann Kristófer Stefánsson as Robert
Böðvar Óttar Steindórsson as Leemoy


Director: Erlingur Thoroddsen
Writer: Erlingur Thoroddsen
Cinematographer: John Wakayama Carey
Editor: Erlingur Thoroddsen
Music: Einar Sv. Tryggvason
Sound: Daniel Timmons & Ari Rannveigarson
Costume: Steinunn Erla Thoroddsen
Make-Up: Geir Njarðarson

Icelandic theatrical poster for the film Rift (Rökkur)


Filmed on location in only 15 days.

Daniel Timmons has been involved with numerous productions since 2009, mostly American and many award-winning.


Since I’ve been on a bit of an Icelandic “kick” the past few weeks I thought I would round off my Icelandic viewing (for a while at least) with the small budget, independent movie, Rift. The premise appealed and I do love a bit of mystery drama with horror. What would I make of this movie that only took a couple of weeks to film?

Björn Stéfansson as Gunnar in Rift

Firstly I must say that the performances of both Björn Stefánsson (Gunnar) and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson (Einar) are excellent. They convey their “it’s complicated” characters well and the scenes they have together have a definite spark.

Sigurður Þór Óskarsson as Einar in Rift

This is a small cast but there are no weak links with everyone playing their part, no matter how small, very well.

We get to know about the relationship between Gunnar and Einar but never get a firm grasp on exactly why they broke up. Gunnar has definitely moved on whilst Einer has not (at least not in the usual way). There is a fantastic scene of the two ex-lovers in bed in which one of them finally divulges a secret which he has never, ever told anyone else and which has affected (still affects) all his relationships. We learn of the sexual initiations of both these men, both traumatic. I have seen some say that their relationship as gay lovers is irrelevant to the story but having watched this I think that it is a very important and relevant aspect.

Scene from Rift showing the landscape and a red jacket

Have you ever watched the classic Nicolas Roeg movie Don’t Look Now (1973)? If you have then you will spot the clear references in Rift. If not then I shall tell you that the child (and adult) in a red coat is a very specific motif. Watch out for it.

There are glimpses and scuttlings and off-kilter moments. Doors that do not want to be shut, knocking on doors, tales of death and blood and an invisible childhood “friend” called Leemoy. I thought that tapping into this not uncommon childhood “thing” was an interesting aspect of the story. The mystery itself drags on too long and the film would have benefited from tighter editing.

Rift is a strange, disturbing, atmospheric film and this weirdness is created through the camerawork and the fabulous music and sound. The locations are used to excellent effect and add to the mood. The cinematography by the Japanese-American John Wakayama Carey is excellent and for that very reason alone (to my mind) it is worth the watch. In addition, the writer also being the director of this feature film has definitely given it a visual assurance. The use of “found-footage” is fantastic and terrifying.

The film falls into more familiar horror territory at times so there is violence (implied and actual) and an unnerving thread of the neighbour’s conversations with Gunnar. We also have a warning issued by someone met by chance. In this respect Rift is reminiscent of a Stephen King story. Question: Why do people never seem to listen to what they are told in these stories? Why?

I enjoyed Rift and because it has left me with so many unanswered questions I think it is highly likely that I will watch it again. If however, you need a story that gives you all the “answers” then I think Rift will not be the film for you. This is an ambiguous movie and at no point is the viewer spoon-fed direct answers as to what the hell is going on nor what has happened/did happen to Einar. The images are often like snapshots which are as likely to knock you off balance as they are to clarify. “Open to interpretation” is probably the best phrase to use.

Just to add that this film also tries to be too many things, mystery, horror, relationship drama… ghost story… and this somewhat reduces its overall impact.

So… do you want a more challenging watch? Want to be left with a feeling of “what the heck did I just watch?” Want to be creeped out? Want to watch some great visuals and stunning Icelandic locations? Do you enjoy an atmospheric thriller? Then I would say give Rift a try. Just watch out for that red rain jacket!


2 wins and 2 nominations

CinEuphoria Awards (2018) Top Ten of the Year – Audience Award ~ Erlingur Thoroddsen
L.A. Outfest (2017) Artistic Vision Award

CinEuphoria Awards (2018) Best Music ~ Einar Sv. Tryggvason
MOTELx, Lisbon (2017) Best European Feature Film ~ Erlingur Thoroddsen


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