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  Forgotten Wells, The Swedish Psycho Punch-Up Extravaganza
Year: 1994
Director: Mats Helge Olsson, Anders Nilsson
Stars: A.R. Hellquist, Gareth Hunt, Taggen Axelsson, Magnus Cederblad, Eva-Karin Bengston, Camilla Lundén, Eva Anderson, Frederick Offrein, Lars Lundgren, Tina Ljung, Annika Soneby, Anders Nilsson, Lenita, Gunilla Johanson, Peo Janssen
Genre: Horror, Sex, Action, Trash, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Beefy, long-haired investigative journalist Pete Savage (A.R. Hellquist) and his TV crew are hired to explore a network of underground wells built to irrigate local farmland. It was there twenty years ago that the wealthy Tanner family lost one of their twin sons. Now rumour has it the wells are the stomping grounds for a deformed, murderous monster. So Savage visits the site along with his crew including equally buff cameraman Mike (Taggen Axelsson) and a gaggle of sexy ladies: Suzy (Eva-Karin Bengston), Jane (Camilla Lundén), Chris (Eva Anderson) and Debbie. At the same time elsewhere, on a dark and stormy night, a stocking-masked mystery man breaks into a local insane asylum and lets loose yet another murderous maniac with a face wrapped in bandages. This psycho goes on a cross-country killing spree before he spies Savage and his documentary crew and follows them down the wells. Yet, remarkably, being trapped in a network of underground caves with a homicidal loon proves the least of their worries.

Swedish cinema ain't all gloomy Ingmar Bergman dramas and perky Pippi Longstocking films. Take for example the output of prolific schlock action hack Mats Helge Olsson. After beginning his career in the Seventies with so-called 'lingonwesterns' he came to specialize in the sort of cheap and trashy, cod-American action fare parodied in Norwegian Ninja (2010). Best known for The Ninja Squad (1984), Olsson also made a handful of direct-to-video actioners with then-down-on-his-luck American star David Carradine and dabbled in the horror genre with works like the ludicrous rock and roll slasher film Blood Tracks (1985). Grottmorden a.k.a. The Forgotten Wells actually marked the last gasp for Olsson's mini-empire of Swedish B-pictures. While Olsson's disciple and frequent co-director in the Eighties: Anders Nilsson has continued to keep the flame burning on the low-budget action movie front, the godfather of Swedish ninja schlock remains inactive. Given he has latterly taken to blaming his stalled career on the influence of Jews and homosexuals in the media, that is probably a good thing.

Remarkably it took seven screenwriters, including musclebound Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China (1986) lookalike leading man A.R. Hellquist, to come up with the borderline incoherent, strangely watchable mess that is The Forgotten Wells. Working with cinematographer Anthony Newton the directing duo weave a relatively spooky and claustrophobic atmosphere as the cast of lunkheaded bodybuilders and gorgeous, pouting Swedish lovelies with Big Eighties Hair descend into the murky cobweb-infested wells. Yet it is obvious Olsson and Nilsson's hearts lean more toward the action side of this horror hybrid. After going to great lengths to establish a Michael Myers-like madman on the loose, the film diverts to another plot. Surprise British guest star Gareth Hunt pops up as a corrupt cop with a ropey Southern accent. Oh, did I mention The Forgotten Wells supposedly takes place in the American south? Well it does. Hence the largely Swedish cast drone through stilted English dialogue. Anyway erstwhile New Avengers star and Nescafé pitchman Gareth Hunt arrives on the scene with an army of trigger-happy mercenaries and abruptly murders Savage's cheery fresh-on-the-scene-barely-characterized-largely-irrelevant lawyer friend. His goons then set about eliminating any witnesses to the maniac's murderous rampage. Which seems pointless given he is trying to kill them all anyway. Whatever. It turns out it is all the fault of the maniac's identical twin brother (Taggen Axelsson).

At this point the film plays as if the events of Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) were happening simultaneously in the same place. Only, in a missed opportunity, our Austin Stoker stand-in inexplicably never gets round to a face-off with Michael Myers. More on that later. Once armed goons raid the wells, Pete Savage and his gym buddy Mike send the quivering girlies to take shelter, strip off their shirts to expose suspiciously well-oiled torsos, exchange high-fives then pit their martial arts skills against Tanner's private army. Alas, none of the ladies get the chance to do anything besides scream or cower in fear (lovely Camilla Lund graduated from Mats Helge Olsson films to become a popular star in proper Swedish movies). At least Suzy grabs an Uzi but never shoots anyone. The plot exists largely to fuel producer/co-writer A.R. Hellquist's he-man fantasies. Indeed the third act shunts the entire cast off somewhere else so Savage can mount a one-man siege on the villain's headquarters. Smiley, mulleted hunk Hellquist is an inept actor but capable action hero and weirdly affable. Similarly The Forgotten Wells, while cheesy, ridiculous and amateurish, exudes a certain homemade charm and enthusiasm that is strangely compelling. Along with fumbling the story's one potentially interesting twist ( which implies there is more than one monster lurking in the wells) the film inexplicably fails to stage a fight between the Rambo-like muscular martial arts hero and unstoppable masked maniac. Which presumably ought to be its big climactic selling point, but no. This was probably due to the film being intended as the first in a two-part TV movie. Part two was scrapped when distributors withheld its release for four year before an eventual lacklustre response. So The Forgotten Wells is dumb but kind of lovably dumb. Music by Dough Anderzon: synth rock of course.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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