DVD: Those Who Kill / Dem som draeber

October 12, 2013 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / T to U


Film: Weak / DVD Transfer: Excellent/ DVD Extras: n/a

Label: Misofilm/ Region: 2 (PAL) / Released: 2011

Genre: Television / Crime / Serial Killer

Synopsis: An elite team of Danish detectives track down and apprehend nasty serial killers.

Special Features:  n/a




Amid the high quality crime series from Denmark – those created by writers determined to give the genre a new spin with unusual focal points – there are inevitably more generic efforts which seek to repackage elements from the familiar and the unusual.

The best way to describe Those Who Kill / Dem som draeber is a fairly by-the-book CSI riff that stylistically and narratively is at least 10 years out of date – at least in the first two installments. A Danish / Norwegian / Swedish / German co-production, the pilot could be seen as a dreadful compromise where the writers seemed to be forced to start with a bang by going through every tired and aged cliché in the police procedural serial killer genre, with scenes trimmed so severely there’s virtually zero character growth.

The core characters are Katrine (striking modelesque Laura Bach), a tough beauty whose head-butting with her boss is tolerated because she’s so damn good; her boss Magnus (utterly wasted Lars Mikkelsen), generally grumpy and confined to short scenes at his desk or standing in strategy rooms; Thomas (Jakob Cedergren), the brilliant criminal psychologist / behavioral scientist lured from his teaching post back to grisly field work; Katrina’s colleague Stig (Frederik Meldal Norgarrd), who has no character arc whatsoever and fills in the investigative chores whenever the writers need a third man on the case; and forensics expert Mia (Laerke Winther Andersen, sporting the worst haircut in the Eurozone), who’s great at her job, a friend to Katrina, and is apparently the single parent of a daughter we see only in the pilot.

The series was conceived as a five TV movies split into separate broadcast episodes, and what’s unfortunate is it took 3 episodes for the writers to figure out their characters and begin to stitch together more intriguing plots, but unfortunately neither the last teleplay nor the final effort, a feature film, were enough to save the series from disinterest and cancellation. Had the show begun with the feature film, it may have had a chance, but half of the stories are typically contrived storylines where the team tracks down a serial killer and catches him before there’s one too many victims.

In the pilot (Liget I skoven), Katrina is snatched by the killer with a somewhat pharaoh-esque fetish who notes scars on her arm that are part of some childhood sexual abuse that’s never dealt with nor inferred again after the second teleplay. Thomas does something rather interesting when he finds Katrina in a makeshift sarcophagus, but aside from an angry exchange, the incident has no lingering effect on their inevitable friendship.

The second teleplay (Utopia) has Katrina still a little stressed out from her near-death experience, but she’s able to focus and support Thomas, who’s marriage is crumbling in a strangely non-argumentative, almost placid way. Their goal is to stop a loner from killing adults and children when his goal to appoint himself as the head of the perfect family unit falls short yet again. David Dencik is great as the timid monster, but the story feels like a riff on Manhunter (1986), right down to the modern architecture used for the upscale locations.

Ondt blod features some really intriguing plot elements – a serial killer actively working inside a men’s prison – plus there’s a link between Thomas and the inmate’s leader, slimy / brilliant Martin (The Thing’s Ulrich Thomsen, stealing every scene he’s in with just a grimace) – but it’s also padded with filler scenes which take away from a story that could’ve been told in under an hour. There’s great atmosphere within the teleplay and several strong performances, and like the prior teleplay, there’s edgy imagery and scenes which would not be so graphic on a standard American network series, especially the misogynistic language and Katrine (once again) being put in graphic harm’s way.

Oje for oje puts Thomas up front as he goes undercover to solve a serial killer actively knocking off members of a local mafia clan, while his marriage is now in complete tatters. It’s also the rare moment where Mia gets a bit more screen time, since it’s her old flame who’s killed in the first quarter. Kim Bodnia is excellent as the Mafioso who engages Thomas as his son’s driver / guardian, and there are blatant shades of Man on Fire (1987) within the episode. While the killer graphically abuses a child in one unsettling scene, the episode borders on quaintness, since the writers maintain parallel character arcs where two fathers ultimately find some civil common ground for the benefit of their sons.

What’s unique about Those Who Kill is the allowed time jumps between teleplays, which permits sudden changes in relationships, and Thomas’ relationship with ex-wife Benedicte comes back to life in Dodens kabala. The flipside is Katrina’s fling with a suave insurance salesman, whom we all know early into the teleplay is the brutal killer responsible for choking and meticulously dismembering specific women. There’s logic to the killer actively courting a member of the investigating police force, but like most banal crime series, the trauma from betrayal and near-death (yet again) never seems to affect characters in subsequent storylines.

In The Killing (from which a HUGE contingent of the guest cast members were drawn), every character in Seasons 1 [M] and 3 [M] is further numbed by whatever physical and emotional trauma’s occurred, but in a generic American network show with a full season order of episodes, the characters have to be reset for the next preposterous adventure, allowing for a token ‘relapse’ episode to maintain a semblance of continuity. (The relapse usually involves the appearance of a previously convicted / thought dead / copycat / revenge killer who taunts and torments a key member of the investigative team before he / she is sent to oblivion.)

Alexandre Willaume is excellent as the smooth talking killer, and the production uses some super locations, including a giant trash sorting plant, and several derelict buildings and yards. There’s nothing new in the story, but there is a solid mood of dread which somewhat transcends the easy plot twists even middling mystery fans will see quite a bit before they occur.

The team’s last adventure is somewhat reminiscent of the grim finale to The Killing: Season 3, insofar as it ensures any effort to resuscitate the series will be a major uphill battle for the writers. (It is possible, but while that seems to be a lost opportunity, Elsebeth Egholm and Stefan Jaworski’s series concept is slated to be remade by Joe Carnahan as TV pilot with Chloe Sevigny.)

In the feature film, subtitled Shadow of the Past / Fortidens skygge, a former patient prematurely certified as sane by Thomas (see the relapse pattern?) has been released and is staging horrific deaths as scribbled down in crude pencil and ink drawings. A plus in this beautifully shot yet merely above-average TV movie is the mounting dread where one character’s optimism and renewed chance at a normal life is clearly going to be wiped out by the end in a finale that riffs a pivotal scene from Blown Away (1994). It’s a good appropriation, but like most of the episodes in this short-run series, a few hours later, the stories tend to blend into each other, and there’s little affection for the generic characters.

Those Who Kill is a slick production, but in trying to stay close to more commercial (read: American) serial killer templates, there are few original ideas in what could’ve been another memorable, grim Danish import.

At present, the series and lone feature film have been released on video in parts of Europe (Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Hungary) and Asia.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDBComposer Filmography


Vendor Search Links:

Amazon.ca Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk New movie releases on iTunes

Return toHome Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews T to U

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.