🇩🇰 ELVES 🇩🇰
Elves (2021) aka Nisser and Elven is a new Danish drama/fantasy/horror/mystery series on Netflix internationally. 6 x 23-25 min episodes. Cert 15 U.K. In Danish with subtitles and also available dubbed.
“A Christmas vacation turns into a nightmare for a teenager and her family when they discover an ancient menace that stalks their island getaway.” IMDb
Ann Eleonora Jørgensen as Karen
Vivelill Søgard Holm as Liv
Peder Thomas Pedersen as Mads
Rasmus Hammerich as Møller
Milo Campanale as Kasper
Sonja Steen as Josefine
Lila Nobel as Charlotte
Lukas Løkken as Anders
Nina Frifelt, Linette Stamp Christensen, Mille Marie Johnson, Sabrina Mây Elmhoff, Silje Enevold Gjesme as Adult Elves
Anne Katrine Sund as Lisbeth
Josiah Sarquah as John
Director: Roni Ezra
Writer: Stefan Jaworski
Composers: Anthony Liedo, Mikkel Maltha
Cinematographer: Lars Reinholt
Costume Designer: Vibe Knoblauch Hededam
Makeup: Kamilla Bjerglind, Julie Holst, Inga Ross (creature suit painter), Per Kapper (sfx makeup)
Stunt Coordinator: Jacob Sebastian Malm Carlsen
Music: Leslie Ming
Locations: The show is set in Aarmandsø, a fictional island in the Danish Archipelago. Areas surrounding Greater Copenhagen stand in for this location.
The ferry that takes the family to the island is the Østre Færge which operates between Zealand and the small island of Orø in Ise fjorden.
The opening theme song is a version of “Carol of the Bells” by the artist Fallulah. Here is a Spotify link to listen to her song:
Do these people never watch horror movies? You know the ones, those who hire a remote cabin in a forest… on an island with locals that most likely will look at you weirdly and seem to belong to some kind of cult… Well, it is just as well that the Svane family in Elves have clearly never seen a horror film to know that they really should have looked on Trip Advisor first!
The dysfunctional family of four, the main character teenager “Jose” Josephine, her father Mads (master of bad dad jokes) mother Charlotte (neurotic and over-protective) and older brother, Kasper (main hobby arguing with his sister) are looking to reconnect on this Christmas trip to an idyllic island full of friendly natives… Yep, as if that was ever going to happen!
I did love the homages that are in Elves which include a very clear ET reference near the start, Jurassic Park (think chase and hide) and a personal favourite, Gremlins.
For me, one of the issues with Elves is that the characters are mostly quite 2-dimensional and hard to sympathise with. Jose is (and why is it so often teenage girls in Nordic series that are written this way?) incredibly irritating, oblivious and self-absorbed. She complains about being treated as a child but then… behaves like a child, however, I did read this as a message saying “Please let your reins off your kids a bit earlier so they learn how to make decisions and be more self-aware of risk”.
Jose wears plot armour so thick that it allows her to escape situations unscathed. This is not so bad in and of itself but she never seems to learn from her experiences or suffer any actual repercussions. The combination of plot armour and a very annoying character risks the audience just wanting her to… well… just die already!
However, some of us were teenagers once upon a time and we should remember that teens are, indeed, often self-absorbed and blessed with both a terrible lack of judgment and dreadful risk assessment. There was one point near the end of this series where I found myself shouting at the screen “For God’s sake, just get out of the forest!”
Her mother was equally annoying and I would have preferred it if the character of mother and father had been swapped over. Let’s have a cool, bad joke mum with a neurotic and overprotective dad!
Kasper and his “is it love” interest are enough to keep the story moving along but did not have enough development to be of real interest.
My favourite character (by far) was that of Møller who goes through an almost “Home Alone” level of injury and still manages to save the frankly idiotic outsiders from being killed. I still cannot forgive Mads for abandoning him to being savaged by an elf (not a phrase I ever expected to write). Møller is the hero of this story, there, I’ve said it.
Being slightly more serious, on one level Elves works as an allegory. You have this nice, middle-class family coming to a place they know nothing about (not a jot of research beforehand) who proceed to ignore every warning from locals and even deliberately flout rules for the protected area they are staying in (that Christmas tree!) This is quite a heavy-handed parallel to how many approach their holidays in other areas and countries but it is not without some worth! We have all probably heard of people being hurt or killed trying to take photos of the cute, cuddly grizzly bears… Jose is the worst for ignoring advice and warnings but she is not the only one.
Talking of elves, these are neither the “on a shelf” kind or the cool, blond Lord of the Rings sort. Rather, these elven “folk” are monstrous, embedded into their natural surroundings and deadly. They are also quite peckish and we learn right near the start that they are fond of cattle. Their babies are really cute though, so that is alright… on the other hand, no that is not alright at all.
I loved that this show went for good old school practical effects and makeup for the adult elves. The CGI baby “Ki-Ko” as it is named by Jose (which probably means “I will not stay cute like this forever and one day I will try and eat you” is very cute and has a desire to see more of the world. I am pleased that this show is not CGId within an inch of its life.
The opening credits sequence is one part of Elves that is pitch-perfect. (See Notes for the artist). The song has a creepy, off-kilter atmosphere to it, ideal for creating that “something wicked this way cokes” feeling. Here is a link to watch the credits on YouTube:
There are some beautiful visuals in Elves, great overhead and tracking shots and hand-held camerawork. The music and sound are great! At this point I’ll mention jump scares, of which this show has a few of which some are decent, and that the atmosphere created by the sound and music is perfectly tense and creepy.
Overall then? Parts of Elves are really good but others just do not work and I think this is due to it not being quite sure of where it is being pitched. I did really like the way it was infused with other shows and movies throughout (homages, not stealing). But more depth to characters, better dialogue, more humour, a lot scarier, a bit more gore and darker and this would have worked so much better for me.
However, at just 6 short (too short I would say) episodes this is not a big time commitment and it is a decent enough antidote to other more sickly sweet Christmas fare and romcoms! I would watch a season 2, just to see what happens next, just not in an isolated cabin in the forest on a remote island in Denmark.
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