‘Cadaver’ Review: Dinner and a Show in a Post-Apocalyptic Setting
By Daniel Rester
Cadaver — aka Kadaver — is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic horror film with a unique spin. Instead of staying in a desolate and destroyed setting, most of the time the film takes place in a fancy hotel. The outside world may be bleak, but a theatre director has found time to treat survivors to dinner and a show — in a lavish setting that survived the nuclear disaster.
We follow a married couple, Leonara (Gitte Witt) and Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), as they enter this theatre world. In tow is their young daughter Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman). They are all struggling and looking for a meal, so they accept an invite to the free dinner-and-show event. The man running the play, Mathias (Thorbjørn Harr), has the audience members explore the hotel as part of the interactive theatre. They also must wear masks in order to distinguish themselves from the mask-less actors.
Jarand Herdal is the screenwriter and director behind Cadaver. The filmmaker has come up with an intriguing premise and he gives it a skillful presentation. The film is beautifully shot and set to music that is just as good. He fills the outside world with chilling blues while the hotel is dripping with bright reds. Herdal loves to move his camera vertically through the center of stairwells and in 360-degree circles around his actors. The tricks are familiar but well-staged.
It’s hard not to get character out of the setting with a camera. The production design in Cadaver is top-notch. The hotel is inviting in some corners, spooky in other corners. Mathias also populates many of the rooms with goat-head portraits with peepholes on them. The various actors of the play engage in different activities in the decorated rooms; one place might contain a murder mystery while the next has some lovers having sex.
The cast helps keep things together too. Everyone does a fine job, with Harr the standout as the suspicious and creepy Mathias. Having just watched The Wizard of Gore (1970) again, I kept wanting Harr to go full ham with his performance as his character instructs the guests. Alas, Herdal keeps him grounded in his weirdness.
Where Cadaver sinks a bit is with the script. I kept wanting to know more about Leonara and Jacob’s relationship and the backstory of the mysterious Mathias. Leonara is the heroine, but I never really cared about her goals. However, the main issue isn’t with the characters but with the story turns. The big twist of the film is predictable thirty minutes before the film actually gets to it. That would be fine if there were more reveals after that, but there aren’t. We’re left wanting to know more about this theatre-meets-Hostel (2005) world.
Cadaver has some fresh ideas and a gorgeous presentation, but it ultimately feels half-baked. Herdal doesn’t get us to care about the characters enough as they head toward inevitable outcomes. He also doesn’t go hard enough with the horror once the sinister reveal does come. Despite its shortcomings, I still give Cadaver a slight pass because of the technical aspects and Harr’s strong performance.
My Grade: 6/10 (letter grade equivalent: B-)
Running Time: 1h 26min
Cadaver is available on Netflix on October 22, 2020