From Norwegian director Martin Sofiedal and writer Emanuel Nordrum, Netflix’s Blasted is the first feature film to tackle a decades-old Norwegian curiosity. In the remote valley of Hessdalen, reports of glowing orbs floating in the sky have been documented since the early ‘80s. Several scientific theories have circulated since, none of which are taken very seriously by the film. As these hypotheses involve heady terminology concerning ionization, radon decay and piezoelectricity, the film’s substitution of scientific study for slapstick comedy is far from an egregious narrative choice. Where Blasted does falter, however, is in its overlong runtime, burdened by a subplot involving a Fargo-esque pregnant police officer that detracts from the already flimsy central friendship dynamic. However, what’s most perplexing about the film is the general lack of evidence concerning its own existence. Silently dumped onto Netflix and non-existent as an entry on Letterboxd, Blasted is a perfectly fine sci-fi comedy destined to fade into obscurity.
Overworked corporate lackey Sebastian (Axel Boyum) hasn’t indulged in a moment of genuine joy or whimsy in what feels like forever. Ahead of a high-stakes presentation, co-worker Auden (Mathias Luppichini) introduces the prospect of Sebastian having his bachelor party over the weekend, offering his summer cabin in scenic Hessdalen. Originally opposed to the idea, Sebastian takes up Auden’s offer in a last-ditch attempt to win over a prospective client named Kasper (André Sorum). Joining in on the weekend getaway are office food courier Pelle (Eirik Hallert) and, unbeknownst to Sebastian, his childhood best friend Mikkel (Fredrik Skogsrud). The two were teenage laser tag champions, and the trajectory of their lives diverged considerably as they grew older. While Sebastian made gains in the cut-throat corporate landscape, Mikkel has remained suspended in a state of arrested development. Of course, their laser tag skills will prove an unlikely boon to their weekend excursion.
Instead of opting for the informational tour of the Hessdalen Observatory, the group gears up for an evening of paintball combat. As they venture into the town, though, an undeniable air of eeriness settles over them. Everywhere they go is weirdly empty, including the paintball course and the observatory. When people eventually show up, though, there’s something immediately off about them: Glowing green eyes, a zombified gait and a rabid determination to apprehend any humans they come across. The so-called bachelors have found themselves in the midst of a full-on alien invasion, and apparently they’re the best shot that Norway—and possibly humanity—has at survival. Tenuously joining them in the fight is heavily pregnant local policewoman Hjordis (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), though she’s largely confined to an alien-oriented souvenir shop when not single-handedly manning the precinct.
Blasted has the allure of being rooted in a real-life mystery, yet the film isn’t interested in raising awareness around the little-known UFOs. Again, much of this is likely to do with the fact that the scientific jargon surrounding the phenomena is incredibly difficult for a layperson to parse. In fact, the presence of a scientific voice is quickly silenced during the film’s cold open. A YouTube vlogger interviews a scientist about the Hessdalen lights, only to stumble upon a hidden cavern that houses a complex contraption. When the scientist interacts with it, she comes in contact with an ectoplasmic goo that immediately turns her into a non-verbal zombie. In Blasted, science takes a back seat to conspiratorial sensationalism. Again, this is fair play in the realm of science fiction, and the film may very well lead to increased intrigue in the Norwegian enigma from Netflix audiences worldwide. However, the sheer lack of publicity Blasted received from the streaming behemoth doesn’t bode well for its lasting impact.
It’s a shame, really, because the Hessdalen Lights are a fascinating marvel that would entice even the most casually curious into watching Blasted. For such an under-discussed occurrence, these floating orbs have been documented with what feels like a nearly unprecedented regularity. During the peak of this phenomenon, from the tail end of 1981 through 1984, around 20 sightings of these lights were reported per week. While sightings have waned since the ‘80s, there are still several documented reports every year. There have been a handful of sightings so far in 2022 (the last one being March 17), meaning these lights are ever-relevant. Most well-known UFO sightings have only been visible for a short time, either occurring during a single day or sporadically over a period of extended time (days, weeks, months). The Hessdalen Lights, however, have remained a constant in the small valley they were named after since their first sighting. Even more compelling is the fact that these lights often appear as distinctly different colors, ranging from blue flashing lights, fiery red streaks or standalone white orbs. Perhaps their visual reliability has diminished the hype surrounding them—yet even the natural splendor of the similarly Scandinavian aurora borealis has made its way onto far-fetched bucket lists for decades.
Though it’s based on a captivating (super)natural spectacle, Blasted likely won’t become the cinematic poster child for the Hessdalen Lights. As the only film to propose what exactly is happening in the small Norwegian valley, it has immense potential for engaging audiences and revitalizing attention towards the UFO (they remain unidentified, after all) phenomenon. However, a failure to market on Netflix’s part means the film will languish in the annals of streaming oblivion, only accessible for those who know to look for it or adventurous viewers willing to gamble on a Norwegian-language film they’ve never heard of. Here’s hoping that number isn’t totally negligible—for its lagging runtime and at least one unnecessary narrative beat, Blasted is a goofy sci-fi adventure that breaks pop cultural ground on a largely unexplored facet of UFO history (save for, you know, Donald Duck comics).
Director: Martin Sofiedal
Writer: Emanuel Nordrum
Stars: Axel Boyum, Fredrik Skogsrud, Mathias Luppichini, Eirik Hallert, André Sorum, Evelyn Rasmussen Osazuwa, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ingar Helge Gimle, Cecilie Svendsen
Release Date: June 28, 2022 (Netflix)
Natalia Keogan is a freelance film writer based in Queens, New York. Her work has been featured in Filmmaker Magazine, Paste Magazine and Blood Knife Magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter @nataliakeogan