Finnish Horror ‘The Knocking’ Sells Wide for LevelK (EXCLUSIVE)

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LevelK continues to terrify international distributors with Finnish horror “The Knocking,” directed by Max Seeck and Joonas Pajunen.

The film has now been sold to over 70 countries, Variety has learned, with the company sealing further deals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Alamode Film), Latin America (Gussi), CIS (Capella Film), France (KMBO), Indonesia (PT. Falcon) and Taiwan (AV-Jet International Media).

“We have been looking at many Nordic projects, especially the Finnish ones. We definitely see a shift in not just more genre projects emerging, but also in the subjects and the creativity,” says CEO Tine Klint.

“‘The Knocking’ ticks those boxes in providing a Nordic horror with an original story, told through classic genre tropes, which is exactly what the buyers are looking for at the moment.”

The film is produced by Markus Selin and Jukka Helle for Helsinki-based Solar Films, also behind Mika Kaurismäki’s “The Grump: In Search of an Escort,” which scored the biggest opening of 2022 for a Finnish film. As well as Emmy-nominated doc “End of a Line: The Women of Standing Rock” by Shannon Kring.

“The Knocking” directors Max Seeck and Joonas Pajunen Courtesy of Matti Eerikainen

In “The Knocking,” three siblings return to their childhood home, where their parents were allegedly murdered. They want to sell it – and the forest around it – but old traumas quickly resurface. Expected to premiere domestically in February 2023 and starring Pekka Strang, Saana Koivisto and Inka Kallén, it will be distributed in the Nordics by Nordisk Film.

“We got the idea for the film when we were walking around in a forest, listening to its sounds,” says Max Seeck, also an internationally recognized writer. His New York Times bestseller “The Witch Hunter” has been optioned by Stampede Ventures.

“Right now, people are making bad decisions everywhere in the world and there is no going back. I think we show the consequences of that, and they are terrible. For us as individuals, but also for the entire humanity.”

“We were also inspired by old Finnish stories and myths. So many of them are about spirits hiding away in the woods,” adds Joonas Pajunen.

“This story could be seen as brutal and cruel, but when people decide to destroy nature, there are no questions asked – we just do. Here, nobody asks questions either. It’s a message we wanted to have.”

The debuting filmmakers – and childhood friends – have been considering a move into features for a while now.

“We made our first film when we were 15, it was a school assignment. It was a mafia movie called ‘Cosa Nostra’,” laughs Pajunen, with Seeck deadpanning: “Very original title.”

Many years later, the pandemic gave them a chance to revisit the dream.

“But then Max had a beer with Markus Selin. Or coffee, depending on what’s better for this article. Markus was interested in making a horror movie, he read our script and asked who will direct it. We looked at each other and said: ‘We are’.”

“Our background is quite unusual in this industry. We just popped out of nowhere,” says Pajunen.

While Finnish horror continues to generate interest abroad, thanks to Sundance discovery “Hatching” or Don Films’ “Lake Bodom,” followed by Teresa Palmer-led “The Twin,” the genre’s sudden resurgence caught them by surprise.

“We were inspired by Jordan Peele, by ‘The Haunting of the Hill House,’ which is also about children’s trauma. It has been happening internationally, but [when we started] we thought we were crazy, making a horror movie in Finland,” observes Pajunen.

“It’s nice to be a part of this wave.”

But the duo tried to make sure that jump scares don’t overshadow the complicated family dynamic. Although, in true Finnish manner, many things are still kept under wraps.

“We wanted it to be interesting even without the horror aspects. It could be about three siblings who had a hard time and are just trying to get along,” says Seeck, with Pajunen adding: “People would tell us: ‘They should talk more about what happened before.’ No! It’s about not talking! In Finland, we call it puhumattomuus.”