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average rating is 3 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

May 10, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Howard Perry
Written by:
Howard Perry
Michelle J. Wright, Daniella Michieli, Johanna K. Lumi, Nicholas Pople, Tristan Pretty

In Old Norse mythology the Hulder were a race of seductive forest spirits, usually female, who lured unsuspecting travellers into the trees to have their way with them. Anyone found not living up to the standards expected by a single Huldra were usually killed and never heard from again, and often the Hulder were also blamed for stealing infant children, replacing them with their own ugly little changelings. In the old texts, Huldra tended to be beautiful and naked with long hair, but also with a hollow back like that of an old dead tree, and a tail which could either look like that of a fox’s or a cow’s.


In the short film Maiken, from writer and director Howard Perry, the Huldra take on a slightly different aspect, this time being able to take the form of a female human (without tail) and with the abilities of being able to switch bodies and drain a person’s lifeforce to rejuvenate her own. Maiken (Wright) herself is the eldest of three sisters who are the last of their kind and are right now being hunted by none other than the All-Father, Odin.


Odin (Pretty) has a seemingly irrational hatred of Huldra and wants them eradicated from the forests. There’s never really any explanation given as to why Odin wants to go to the trouble of hunting down every last one of these forest elves, but to be fair the old texts are apparently a little bit sketchy on the detail of this, too. It does, however, rob the film of a decent amount of motivation for the entire scenario and we’re just left to accept it as one of those things that Odin does. So, as is his wont, Odin directs the champion of his hunt, Elvind (Pople) to take his men and root out the scourge of the three remaining Huldra.


Maiken won’t just take this lying down, though. So she rallies her sisters, Thyra (Michieli) and Lisbet (Lumi) to action, asking them to follow a sketch of a plan to make an alliance with some trolls. The fact that Maiken’s new form is that of Astrid, who just so happens to be Elvind’s betrothed, also throws a spanner in the works of just how the sisters are going to escape.


For a twenty-four minute short there’s an awful lot of set-up to help get the viewer into the story; so much in fact that the whole of Maiken merely feels like Act I of a much bigger play. For around twenty of those minutes there’s a lot of ‘sistering’ around in the woods, as this is almost exclusively how they refer to one another in nearly every line of dialogue. There’s plenty of ‘sister this’ and ‘sister that’ and a whole bunch of other grammatical turns which are supposed to suggest that we are in ‘Ye Olde’ times, but when it comes down to it, other than an untidy brawl from a bunch of LARPers and a quick kidnapping, there’s not too much going on. It’s not until the final shots of the film that any sort of real progression takes place but by then it’s too late and it’s all over.


It’s obvious that Howard Perry is trying to give us an expansive fantasy tale, in a long established fantasy realm, all on a tight budget. His characters are all archetypes who don’t need an awful lot of subtlety, yet somehow they still manage to come across as bargain basement versions, with the simple costuming to match. The special effects are also pretty basic but are at least used sparingly enough for it not to really matter, although the vocoder that is used on Odin’s voice is terribly distracting.


In fairness to Perry there are plenty of fantasy realm films out there, whether aping an established canon like Lord Of The Rings or otherwise, that look, feel and run a lot worse than what he has managed to produce in Maiken. There’s a lot to be said for the cinematography from Frank Hammond, who manages to keep everything crisp and clean, especially around so much green, and Perry is no slouch in the director’s chair either. Some of the sets and locations offer up a genuine Old Norse feel to provide some authenticity and while Perry doesn’t quite manage to pull off a cinematic feel to the production he seems to be doing a lot of things right.


With a tightening up of the dialogue and scenario, along with a proper soundtrack and a few acting lessons, Maiken could easily entice the casual viewer to enter another land for a short half-hour. However, as it is, it may only be the hardcore fantasy dwellers, along with LARPing enthusiasts, who will get anything meaningful out of it.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film
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