If there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that it’s really fun to watch Nazi’s get absolutely destroyed. ‘Sisu’ delivers exactly this to carnage hungry horror fans over and over again for the full run of its 91 minutes at the U.S. Premiere during Panic Fest 2023. Set in the last desperate days of WWII, Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) is a veteran of The Winter War (between the Soviet Union and Finland) who is spending his twilight years as a gold prospector after having lost his entire family. He earned himself quite a mythical reputation avenging their deaths by single handedly taking out countless Soviet soldiers. Content to quietly seek his fortune with his horse and his incredibly loyal dog, Aatami is unbothered as a small band of Nazi troops roll through his property…until they decide to steal the lode he’s just mined. They spend the rest of the film learning their lesson in the most brutal and unrelenting ways possible.
If you liked ‘John Wick’ but thought “this could use more dismembered limbs flying through the air” writer/director Jalmari Helander has made this film specifically for you. The over the top brutality plays out against the scenic Finnish countryside as we see the toll the war has taken on the towns and people. The Nazi’s, sensing that they are about to lose the war and not exactly likely to be welcomed home warmly, realize that securing this gold might be their only hope at a comfortable future. But they didn’t count on Sisu. The film states that Sisu is a Finnish word for which there is no English translation, but it is defined as: a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination in the face of overwhelming odds.
Coming into a viewing of ‘Sisu’ the most important thing you can do is leave your disbelief at the door. Aatami does the impossible over and over again, going from ridiculous to fully ludicrous without batting an eye. Without uttering a single word the entire film he truly appears immortal as he tears Nazis to pieces and dodges death at every turn. He encounters a handful of Finnish women they had taken hostage who already know who he is and the tales of what he can do. Much of the film suggests that sisu is embodied by Aatami alone, but these women also seem to have it when they take up arms to assist Aatami’s mission and secure their own freedom.
If you’ve come for a straightforward WWII story with realistic action, you won’t find that here but the creative kills and absurd levels of gore will delight horror fans as well as action fans who can handle a completely bananas series of events. Helander, who also directed a staple of my holiday horror rotation, ‘Rare Exports’, seems determined to show us the darker side of Finland. He has an undeniable hit on his hands with ‘Sisu’.
From Lionsgate, ‘Sisu’ played at Panic Fest 2023 on 4/14/2023 and will be in theaters nationwide on 4/28/23.
Panic Fest 2023: ‘Sisu’ Slays Nazi’s With Absolutely Absurd Brutality