Terribly Happy (Frygtelig Lykkelig) Review
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The Danish thriller Terribly Happy opens with a story—a creepy little story about a cow that rises from a bog to give birth to a two-headed calf (one human and one bovine). After it’s born, the calf becomes infected with mad cow disease—which, in turn, makes the women in the town crazy until the men decide to put the cow out of its misery.

Strange little story, don’t you think? It’s rather gruesome and disturbing—yet, when you think about it, it’s also strangely, darkly funny. And that’s precisely what I love about Scandinavian films: they’re generally quirky and unexpected, with a twisted sense of humor.

But Terribly Happy isn’t really about two-headed cows. It’s about Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren), a cop who’s been given a second chance. After recovering from a nervous breakdown that removed him from the police force in Copenhagen, he’s assigned to the tiny town of Skarrild, where people would prefer to handle matters their own way. In Skarrild, shoplifters are beaten instead of convicted, and the townspeople hold court in the local bar every night.

Skarrild makes for an eerie setting—a small town in the middle of the Danish marshlands, where rubber boots are a staple of every wardrobe. Here, everybody knows everybody else’s dark secrets. And here, people sometimes just disappear.

From the minute Robert steps out of the car (and into a giant puddle), you’ll know that there’s something about Skarrild that’s just a bit…off. It’s an unsettling feeling that becomes more and more ominous as you learn more about the town and the people who live there.

Right away, Robert meets a number of the eccentric townspeople—like Dr. Zerlang (Lars Brygmann), the local quack, who arrived one day and never left. He also meets Ingelise (Lene Maria Christensen), a beautiful blonde who comes to Robert to beg him to protect her and her nine-year-old daughter, Dorthe (Mathilde Maack), from her abusive husband, Jørgen (Kim Bodnia).

In order to get back to Copenhagen, Robert knows that he’ll have to play strictly by the book—but it soon becomes clear that nothing in this strange little town is ever strictly by the book.

Based on the novel by Erling Jepsen, director Henrik Ruben Genz’s Terribly Happy (or Frygtelig Lykkelig in Danish) mixes the chilling atmosphere of a Hitchcock thriller with surprising touches of the Coen Brothers’ style of quirky comedy. It’s a film that’s filled with deep, dark secrets and unexpected eccentricities.

The creepy setting will keep you on-edge as you wait for any one of the plethora of peculiar characters to do something unthinkable. At the same time, though, you might catch yourself laughing out loud at the pitch-black humor of it all. It’s haunting and bizarre—and it’s delightfully, dementedly different.

If you’ve never seen a Scandinavian film, you’re in for a strange (yet spine-chilling) surprise. But if you enjoy that unusual Scandinavian style as much as I do, this haunting thriller will make you terribly happy.

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