Thriller also known as En Grym Film and They Call Her One Eye was directed by Swedish film maker Bo Arne Vibenius back in 1973 and it pretty much can be seen as a predecessor for the likes of Last House On The Left, I Spit On Your Grave and MS45.
The beautiful Swedish scenery of a farming community gives way to a picture of innocence. A young girl is seen skipping joyfully through the woods and is grabbed by a bearded tramp. It is obvious what is going to happen and the delirious close up look on the rapists face paints a horrific picture. The girl survives but her experience leaves her mute. The beautiful Cristina Lindberg plays Madeleine the girl grown up. Her performance is stunning as are her looks. A frail creature is transformed into a whirlwind of retribution by events that occur.
She is picked up by Tony (Heinz Hopf a stalwart of Swedish genre movies who committed suicide in 2001), taken captive and forced into heroin addiction. Tony is everything you would expect from a 70s pimp. Completely ruthless and sleazy, this flamboyant character interacts in a game of cat and mouse with Madeleine where there can be only one victor. When she is forced into her first sexual liaison Madeleine reacts by scratching the face of her assailant. Tony reacts by stabbing her eye out with a scalpel (ludicrous reports cite that a real corpse was used here) in a scene that would be revisited in more gruesome detail by Fulci in his New York Ripper.
Our One Eyed heroine addicted to heroin is set to work. We see her being abused by a host of vile characters. A middle age man has her posing and takes photos. A brute penetrates her both vaginally and anally and a lipstick lesbian slaps her about and forces her into rug munching degradation. In the uncut format, hardcore scenes are seamlessly inserted into the frame but a body double was used rather than Lindberg who retained some modesty. Madeleine is given free reign to leave the brothel as Tony realises the drugs will bring her back. She tries to visit her parents and finds their coffins being carried down the road. Vengeance is now well and truly on the agenda and a poignant scene has her praying in church, perhaps asking forgiveness for what is to come.
With no shortage of money from turning tricks, Madeleine embarks on an intensive course of unarmed combat, arms training and rally driving. She excels at all but returns home for more molestation and abuse. The bed of another prostitute who Madeleine befriended is covered in blood and she realises that it is now or never for retribution. Armed with a sawn off shotgun and small arms she sets off to reek havoc.
Her anal raider is found and shot-gunned on his doorstep. The violence is orchestrated in extreme slow motion with sound effects getting a trippy echo in the mix. Somehow she knows how to find her other abusers and follows them to a bar but Tony escapes. The mouse becomes the cat and she despatches some hoods sent to finish her off along with some police who get in the way. Jumping in the police car she takes off. In the throws of madness any cars she passes are forced off the road, exploding with tinderbox ease. She finds Tony again in a deserted fishing location. Seagulls crow and the pair take pot shots amongst the shacks in a gun slinging homage to both Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs. Tony escapes for now but redemption is just round the corner in a climax that is both cruel and thoroughly justified.
Thriller was instantly banned on release in Sweden and and probably would be a vilified title today if they had not sanely abolished their film censorship board. Even though Madeleine is not raped as such, she is forced into prostitution meaning that the hardcore scenes will most certainly never be allowed to see the light of day in a British release. You could have the film without them and the violence is not that explicit but to remove them would seriously damage the impact of the movie.
There are many things about Thriller that take the viewers breath away. The sparseness of The Swedish countryside and the rich autumnal colours portrayed by the lush cinematography are beautiful. The garish use of colours and the psychedelic manipulation of the audio tones give it a very 70’s feel. The acting by the 2 main leads is particularly excellent and they really grasp their characters by the horns and give a very believable performance. Quentin Tarantino is one of many who have cited the influence of this movie. If you wondered where he got the idea for Daryl Hannah’s character in Kill Bill 2, the answer is right here.
Thriller was also on release grasped by the feminist movement as being a positive role model and was only really stigmatised by the powers that be who should have left this film to be enjoyed or even endured by free thinking adults. Bo Arne Vibenius followed this with Breaking Point a movie that kind of turned the tables. This was equally hardcore and a fantasy that tried to give a message that over 80% of women actually fantasised and wanted to be raped. I guess any good intentions he had gained from Thriller were rather lost with this one, which was unsurprisingly also instantly banned. This is a lost classic that sorely needs to see the light of day again and be appreciated by a new generation of film fans and a movie that comes thoroughly recommended.
Interested in more great Swedish films then it is well worth checking out Swedish Sentationfilms A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema, by Daniel Ekeroth. Readers to this sites metal section may recognise him from his book on Swedish Death Metal as well as being in bands like Dellamorte, Insision, Uncurbed and Iron Lamb