Through a murky night, the barest glint of a bus reflects gloomy streetlights. Inside is a driver who knows where the inscrutable stops are, unlike his passengers. A group of naked business people share transport with a someone using a blood-soaked laptop, as a man in an elephant costume looks on. As the bus shudders to a halt, our silent driver focuses on which of his cargo needs to alight, and outside does not look inviting.
Bloodride is a Norwegian horror anthology series, similar in theme to Don't Watch This. Six half hour episodes dig into tales of greed, mental instability, avarice, and obsession, all with the wraparound set up of a bus which may or may not be delivering the participants to an implied purgatory. The short run time is ideal for such a concept as each episode acts as its own self-contained horror story but there is enough time to spend on developing character and setting.
Opening entry, Ultimate Sacrifice, joins a family as they move to a remote house in the country. Through terse conversations it is implied that wife and mother, Molly, has been less than responsible with the family’s finances and resents the husband’s cost saving house move required to get them back on their feet. The neighbours all seem friendly. Almost too friendly. And each one of them has an animal or pet on them all at times which they never stop stroking. All very Wicker Man at first glance, but after Molly eavesdrops on something unexpected whilst jogging in the woods the mechanics of how the village works is slowly unwound. Molly’s move from cynicism to wild eyed devotion is a good start for tone of the series.
Three Sick Brothers is an entry that will be satisfying for those who can make educated guesses as to crafted misdirection and subtle foreshadowing. After 3 years in a psychiatric hospital, young man Erik is gently guided by his mother into a quiet apartment for recuperating. Yet his two lively party loving brothers take him away to a secluded spot, picking up a young hitchhiker, Monika, looking for a good time along the way. You know something terrible is going to happen, but personally speaking I was pleased at how things did not go how I thought they would as the situation gets more and more dire.
Middle entries Bad Writer and Lab Rats are the most fun, swinging into black comedy at points. Bad Writer depicts the falling apart of cheerful rich girl Olivia’s life over the course of a Very Bad Day. Her room mates can’t stand her all of a sudden, and she has to escape a murder plot. It’s very Stranger Than Fiction and plays with the writer’s voice format gleefully.
The group tension in Lab Rats is also highly effective, as ruthless businessman Edmund locks his own research team into a plastic prison to discover which one of them has stolen a highly profitable breakthrough discovery. The sparking of jealous wife against Edmund’s suspected lover, as well as the rivalry between the scientist who slaved on the formula versus the newcomer who cracked it, are all great screen fodder.
Arguably the weakest two of Bloodride are The Old School and The Elephant In The Room. The former is certainly the scariest of the bunch but leans a little too hard into standard horror tropes as new primary school teacher Sanna uncovers the dark history of the finally reopened Asak school, closed for the past 40 years. The latter will ring true for anyone who has attended an office party as revellers get increasingly drunk but skirt around a suspicious horrific accident that left one teammate hospitalised with a smashed face just weeks earlier. This episode has good characters and good payoff at the end, but the middle lacks an individual spark of its own.
Inevitably you’ll have favourite episodes and ones you aren’t so keen on but Bloodride succeeds in keeping the standard high throughout. The tales are short, snappy, and on the whole keep you guessing as to where they are going. It never swings too hard into excessive gore nor does it get too high concept (which Black Mirror can sometimes get bogged down in). Instead, the stories are rightly centred on the failings of people and each episode keeps the tone perfectly balanced. Pay your fare, mumble an ignored greeting to the driver, and let Bloodride take you into October’s long and chilly night.
Words by Michael Record