Interview With Jalmari Helander, Writer And Director Of ‘Sisu’

Jalmari Helander’s (Rare Exports – 2010) new film Sisu is a brutal yet funny gorefest about a man slicing and dicing his way through a fuckton of Nazis. The English language Finnish film holds nothing back and leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of violence, and I am totally okay with that because what’s more fun than watching a man eradicate Nazis? Nothing, when it comes in the form of Sisu.

Set in Finnish Lapland during World War II, the film follows a gold prospector who attempts to secure his gold from a Nazi death squad led by a brutal Schutzstaffel officer.

To celebrate the release of the film into theaters, I chatted via Zoom with writer and director Jalmari about his inspiration for Sisu, working with family, his favorite kill from the movie, and more!

**Spoiler alert – the curly white dog does NOT die!**

PopHorror: Sisu was incredible! I watched it last night and cheered through the whole thing so I’m super excited to speak with you.

Jalmari Helander: That’s great to hear!

PopHorror: What inspired Sisu, and how did the project come about?

Jalmari Helander: Well, the answer is there in the background (points to movie poster). First Blood was the first influence for Sisu, I thin, and for me to be a filmmaker. So, it’s been a long dream of mine to be in the position to make my own Rambo hero finally.

Jorma Tommila in Sisu.

PopHorror: That’s so awesome. The kills in this movie are just fantastic. Which kill scene took the longest for you to prepare?

Jalmari Helander: The longest prepare of any kill was here at my office when I was trying to figure out a new way of doing something. My favorite probably is the one underwater because that combines some really weird elements and I had so much fun when I had that idea.

PopHorror: The cinematography is beautiful and that scene underwater, even though it’s pretty bloody, is still a very beautiful scene. Just the clarity and how well made it was… I love hearing that it’s your favorite one. Sisu is incredibly brutal, and like I said, the kills are just fantastic. It’s relentlessly paced. Was there anything that you had to cut out due to budget or time restraints?

Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, and Onni Tommila in Sisu.

Jalmari Helander: No, we made it clear with Petri, the producer (Jokiranta), in the beginning that this is the thing we want to do, and this is how it will be done. If you want to be on board, you just have to accept what’s coming and that. But there were no conversations like that at any point actually, because when you read the script, you understand. In a film like this, you would try to make it less something, it doesn’t make it any good for the film.

PopHorror: You said that First Blood was your inspiration. What made you want to set it in the time frame that you did, in 1944 with Nazis?

Jalmari Helander: The whole idea of being in Lapland in that period of time and when Nazis burned the whole place to the ground, and they basically destroyed every road, every bridge, every railroad, every town, every village, I think if something good comes from that, it’s a set-up for our setting. That’s a place full of danger and full of all kinds of cinematic things in a way. And having Nazis as the iconic movie villains…

PopHorror: We all like to see the killing of a bunch of Nazis.

Jalmari Helander: Yes, we do.

PopHorror: The film stars your brother-in-law and nephew. Was this always the plan?

Jalmari Helander: Most definitely, yes. Never had a second thought of who Atami could be. Then I would be in big trouble if Jorma (Tommila – Rare Exports 2010) for some reason couldn’t make it, I don’t know how to cast an actor to do this even. I just have to know him so well that I know what he’s capable of.

PopHorror: What’s it like working with family?

Jalmari Helander: It’s nice, of course. But basically, I know a lot of people who worked on Sisu for a very long time and that always helps because we have done things before, and we don’t have to start from an empty table. We have the same experiences and definitely that helps while doing even something more difficult than you have done before because you can build from their experiences before.

PopHorror: I saw that they have followed you through your career so that’s really awesome. What is up next for you?

Jalmari Helander on the set of Sisu.

Jalmari Helander: Well, there’s a couple of options now. We might start to shoot this sci-fi I wrote before Sisu, even this year. And I’m also writing a new action film and some from Hollywood are pretty interested. I don’t know. Just have to wait and see what happens next.

PopHorror: I’m excited to see what you have coming up for us because I loved this one. I have just one last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?

Jalmari Helander: Favorite scary movie… I like to say The Shining because it’s till very scary to watch it even today. I also want to say the first Nightmare on Elm Street because when I saw that as a kid, that really fucked my head. I couldn’t sleep for probably five years properly after that because the idea of having to be in that real danger when you actually fell asleep, I think that’s one of the best horror movie ideas ever because when you start to think about it when you’re going to bed, it’s not a fun thing to think.

Thank you so much to Jalmari for taking the time to speak with us. You can catch Sisu in theaters now!

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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