Review: Mystery Box (2018)

How to mess up a decent, tried and tested idea, a clear sense of the importance of the atmosphere, good acting, decent production values and lots of craft involved in a genre movie? The answer is simple: add the rushed, cop-out ending. This is the case with the short Mystery Box, shot, edited and directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, now available on Grimmfest’s video platform.

The idea is simple: a woman (Lisa Henni) on a retreat in her cabin on an island goes for a fishing trip and catches the titular wooden box. For whatever reason, she brings it home with her. The box starts appearing in strange places where she did not leave it before. She is under psychological pressure and in physical pain leading her to open it…

Mystery Box marks Laguna’s comeback to the world of shorts after a few features like Blood Runs Cold, Wither and The Last Reich (the latter two are also co-directed by Wiklund) that secured him a minor cult status in genre circles. He is well aware of the tropes, trying to use the template mechanics of those, while pushing the boundaries further. Mystery Box is not an exception in that case, but, until the very end, the challenge in the terms how to make the usual horror stuff like isolation, mystery item and crumbling psyche work in a very limited setting and a very compact format. The directors’ sense of topography is great, Lisa Henni’s acting, reliving the sentiments from confusion to anger and fear, is superb, while the rapid editing and Samir El Alaoui’s spooky string score help. With an ending that would be more developed or at least less skeletal, Mystery Box would be a little gem of a horror short.

You can watch the film in its full length here:

Original title: Mystery Box
Year: 2018
Runtime: 10′ 41”
Country: Sweden
Language: Swedish
Directed by: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Written by: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund, David Liljeblad
Cast: Lisa Henni, Hanna Oldenburg
Cinematography by: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Editing by: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Music by: Samir El Alaoui
Produced by: David Liljeblad, Tommy Wiklund
Production company: Stockholm Syndrome Film