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Film / Evil 2003

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Evil (Ondskan) is a 2003 film from Sweden directed by Mikael Håfström.

Erik is a teenager in 1950s Sweden. An early scene shows that his stepfather is a cruel and vicious man who beats him. Some time passes, Erik grows into his late teens, and the next scene shows him giving a brutal beating to a boy at his school, Erik now inflicting on others the violence regularly inflicted on him. He is expelled, with the headmaster at his school calling him "evil".

His mother remains desperate to get him graduated, so she sells some art that she has in the house and raises enough money to send him to prep school. Unfortunately the prep school, Stjärnsberg, is hardly an improvement. The school is dominated by the senior Sixth Form students, twelve of whom form a Students' Council. The boys of the Students' Council are sadistic martinets, who inflict painful corporal punishments for petty offenses like using a curse word at lunch. Erik refuses to submit to their petty humiliations, causing the sixth form students, led by the monstrous Otto Silverheilm (Gustaf Skarsgård) to repeatedly ratchet up their cruelty and brutality. Events gradually spiral out of control.

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Tropes:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The student council at the prep school can organize fights where older students beat younger students half to death, and no one in the school administration cares.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The teachers at the prep school are shockingly indifferent to the torture, beatings, and violence going on under their noses. In one scene Otto is pounding away at Erik's face until Erik is drenched with blood and both Otto and the walls are splattered with it. Marja screams, which finally rouses the headmaster, who ambles into the cafeteria and tells Otto to knock it off. And that's all that he does.
    • The one person who does seem to mind is the PE teacher, who wants Erik on the swim team. He promises that he'll protect Erik and calls it "a matter of honor". He does nothing.
  • Answer Cut: Erik is told that he'll have to face Otto in "the ring". Erik says "What bloody ring?" Cut to the concrete square on the school grounds, where Pierre explains that this is where the sixth form students beat the hell out of people.
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  • Boarding School of Horrors: Jesus. Sometimes, the sixth form students will take younger boys into the "ring", actually just a concrete square in the courtyard. There older bullies like Otto and Dalen will beat younger students to a pulp, while the other boys stand around in a circle screaming "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!". Dahlen burns Erik with a cigarette. Otto and his goons throw a bucket of human waste into Erik and Pierre's room. It's entirely routine for the sixth form students to humiliate the younger students in the cafeteria by whacking them on the head with butter knives.
  • The Chain of Harm: Pierre speculates on what made Otto such a brutal sociopath, suggesting that it's probably because he himself was victimized when he was a younger student at the school. Pierre thinks the cycle will go on forever. At the end Erik breaks the cycle, first by passing up a chance to pulverize a terrified Otto, and then calling in a lawyer to force changes in the school.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After a lot of pain and suffering, Eric graduates, then goes home and throws his horrendous stepfather out of the house. He ends the movie by starting out on a path to law school.
  • Gang of Bullies: The sociopathic members of the Student Council. They start out by whacking students on the head with bread knives and jabbing them in the scalp with vinegar dispensers. As Erik continues to refuse to submit to their punishments their actions grow more extreme, like jabbing cigarettes into Erik's chest, beating up Pierre, punching Erik in the cafeteria until the walls are splattered with blood, and more.
  • Identification by Dental Records: Invoked. Erik corners Otto and threatens to remove all his teeth so there would be nothing to identify after killing him. He doesn't go through with it.
  • Impairment Shot: The sixth form goons tie Erik down out in the open, soak him with water, and leave him there, presumably to freeze to death overnight. Erik is halfway to doing just that when he sees a blurry face above him. It's Marja, who saves him.
  • Match Cut: An audio match cut from the slap of the belt, as Erik's stepfather beats him, to the sound of Erik's fists pounding the face of the boy at school that Erik is beating bloody.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Erik comes back home and tells his stepfather that he's going to beat him so badly that Stepdad will have a broken nose and won't be able to see. Tragically, the scene cuts away before Erik delivers his beatdown.
  • One-Gender School: Erik attends a hellish prep school for boys.
  • Parental Abuse: Erik's stepfather is a cruel sadist who looks for any excuse to viciously whip him with a belt.
  • School of Hard Knocks: Students beat the everloving crap out of each other in vicious organized fights, and the administration does not care.
  • Slow Clap: All the students applaud Erik for winning the swim meet. Then, after the applause ends, Otto starts clapping very slowly, all by himself, delivering the message that there will be consequences.
  • Time Passes Montage: Before things start really going downhill at the prep school, there's a montage showing relatively normal activities like Erik and Pierre running around in the halls, the Nazi teacher (there is one!) teaching, and the kids playing soccer.
  • Title Drop: The headmaster at Erik's school says "There's only one word for people like you, and that is 'evil'."
  • Unishment: Most of the punishments that Otto and Dalen inflict on Erik are savage and cruel. But at one point they take away his weekend pass to go home...which allows him to hang out all weekend with beautiful Marja, the cafeteria worker. Before the week is over the two of them are kissing in the grove of trees.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: The family-unfriendly message at the end is that violence was the answer to crush the Gang of Bullies. Erik turns the other cheek for almost the entire movie, and his reward is to suffer horrific torture that ends with him nearly getting murdered, and his best friend Pierre is beaten to a pulp before leaving the school. However, once Erik does decide to start hurting people, he delivers an immensely satisfying beatdown to Dalen that ends in Dalen crawling out of the ring with a shattered nose. Just the threat of violence to Otto, whom Erik catches alone without his goon squad, results in Otto dropping to his knees and crying like a little girl before he pukes all over himself. Then at the end he goes home, tells his brutal stepfather that the stepfather has to leave the house, and then gives him a beating as well (offscreen).
  • Voiceover Letter: The letter Pierre leaves behind for Erik, revealing that he can't take it anymore and has left the school.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot
    • Erik reacts to the sixth form goons dumping a bucket of feces in his room by carefully scooping it all up into the bucket, sneaking into Dalen's room, and dumping it on him. Dalen starts puking on himself.
    • At the end Otto's stark terror at facing Erik causes him to vomit all over himself.
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