Survival Horror Red Dot (2021) Laser Focuses on All the Wrong Things
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Title: Red Dot
First Wide Release: February 11, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alain Darborg
Writer: Alain Darborg, Per Dickson
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Starring: Nanna Blondell, Johannes Kunke, Anastasios Soulis
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A man lays on the snow, bloodied and defeated, explaining that “it wasn’t her fault.” We cut back to the beginning of Red Dot which begins nearly a year and a half prior.
After graduating from engineering school, David (Anastasios Soulis) proposes to his girlfriend Nadja (Nanna Blondell) before they move to Stockholm. Giddy and drunk on young love, they eagerly embrace in the public bathroom of David’s college. Flash forward to the present, we arrive at a critical junction in the pair’s relationship, one burdened by the pressure and stress of living together and handling adult responsibilities.
After a minor argument, David hatches a plan for a romantic getaway up north to see the Northern Lights. After some initially icy service at the hotel and a run in with some racist locals vandalizing their car, the couple eagerly begin their journey into the wilderness. It’s not even their first night before they are ambushed by a malicious sniper that begins terrorizing them in the tundra.
Red Dot is derivative horror-thriller that creates serviceable tension in familiar territory.
The biggest issue with this film is its desire to play it safe. The motivation for the life-or-death situation our heroes find themselves in is entirely mundane and uninspired. Furthermore, there is an incredibly painful flashback sequence that walks the audience through the last year and a half that builds up to the penultimate moment for David and Nadja. What’s more jarring is that for all the explanation of one plot point, others are brought up and abandoned without much fanfare. There’s literally a forty second scene where the couple seeks shelter in a bear den where Red Dot teases us with another potential source of terror only to immediately pivot and ignore it?
The film feels full of missed opportunities for switching up the tired formula it clings to dearly.
It doesn’t help that our main characters aren’t particularly sympathetic. It’s hard to take a film seriously when the pursuers are much more relatable, even if misguided, than the heroes. Within the first five minutes of their time in this northern town, which they make it painfully clear is a place for 'hicks', they commit a hit and run, vandalize a car, and potentially injure a dog. Sure, they think they are provoked for some of these moments, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Bad characters can have a chance to redeem themselves in a good horror film. They do need to be interesting, however, to make an audience care about and root for them. Blondell tries her hardest to insert some grit into Nadja, but there’s not much she can do to overcome a hollow idea of a person.
Red Dot is not entirely an awful movie. It’s filled with gorgeous scenery of the vast and unforgiving tundra as well as some truly great night lighting. It’s unfortunate that the nocturnal action ends after a mere twenty minutes, much like the titular red laser, and we are propelled into a survival film where characters run to one location after another, stopping to rest and recoup. The practical effects, while sparse, are well done, especially with a nasty surprise left in the couple’s tent early on in the film.
Alain Darborg’s third film and first foray into horror-esque territory leaves much to be desired. Aside from a few well-timed chase sequences, Red Dot hobbles its way to its third act reveal with little distinguishing itself, outside its setting, from any similar film. While it is a firm a steady-paced survival horror, Red Dot fails to capitalize on the potential its premise holds. The result is something that we have already seen a million times executed with more flair, higher stakes, and less emphasis on shaky cam camerawork.
What we are left with is a stale lesson in taking responsibility for your actions and living with the consequences. A fine lesson in its own right, if done right. But Red Dot will elicit more eye rolls than head nods with its trite and predictable writing.
Viewers that are looking for mild thrills and snowy scenery will find Red Dot a very okay film to stream on a Saturday afternoon. Those seeking something with a little more originality and craft, will likely be left wanting. Personally, I didn’t love it or hate it. It’s fine. The problem with fine is that it is unmemorable, and I likely will not think about Red Dot a year or two from now unless I happen to scroll past it in my movie ratings and linger for more than a few seconds. It’s about as much time as Darborg devoted in screen time to the bear that was forgotten as soon as it was introduced.
Overall Score? 5/10