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An Interview with Gustav Ljungdahl, Director of Root of Darkness

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2016

Films directed by Gustav Ljungdahl on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Root of Darkness - in a few words, what is it about?


It's about a medieval historian finding an unpleasent treasure. 


What were your sources or inspiration when writing Root of Darkness?


It started as a joke (most of the movies we make start like a joke) so we thought what would a horor movie sound like if everybody talked like they do in Ingmar Bergman movies. Old thwatrical Swedish, so we watched Bergman, and find a horror movie he made so we noticed either we are as good as him or we have noticed his formula. Slso we did the movie out of what we hade avaailable, like locations and costumes and stuff to spend as little money as possible (in the end the movie cost 1500 Euro to make), so I had lots of boxes of my dead grandparents' stuff so we set the movie in 1977 so the inspiration was more out of limitations.


What can you tell us about your co-writer (and star) Jesper Danielsson, and what was your collaboration like when writing Root of Darkness?


Jesper and I have been friends for many years and we have similar interests but also wery different interests, so I usually come up with the basic story and he writes due to me being heavely dyslectic so he is a much needed help. He and I write the dialogue but Jesper is fine tuning it to a better form, so we sit with lots of coffee and cake and pour my notes into a script. Due to the low budget and suff like it we are forced to relie on the few people we can find for free or each other, so it's usually Jesper in front of the camera, I behind ore vice versa. When it comes to distributing work between me and him some might see it unfair due to me doing so much but I am ok with it, it won't work otherwise, the movies would not be made otherwise without his input and good ideas.


A few words about your movie's approach to horror?


Well I think much horror made this day is a bit too fast when it comes to the scary parts, it is not enough built up, so I did it like this that and make it as slow or fast as it needs to be but due to living in the middle of nowhere and it is lonely and dark and you can hear noises of animals eating the apples in the garden and hope it is not a pack of boars or an elk that will scare the shit out, or if you get too close to it there is more going on in your head than if you see it, but we started the movie as a comedy and see what directon it would take in case we did not succeed in makeing a horror movie we will try making it like that so the first concept trailer turned out good, so we keept the horror tone.


Do talk about Root of Darkness' monster for a bit, and how was it conceived?


The monster's design is pretty much in the title - Root of Darkness or "rooten till alt ont" in Swedish tree monster, and that was ultra low budget, it is a bit of a The Thing type, it infects you and you turn into some thing, so I made it out of stuff I had at home, I took a styrofome head, took a plastic bag glued on cut up butels and then took a black plastic bag over that and heated it with a heat gun so it shrinked and wrinkled and after that I dry brushed with brown paint. I have several videos on my YouTube channel of the process. so a lot of plastic bags and and tape, not much latex was used at all, theer is no CGI in the movie at all because I have no idea how to make it.


Having covered horror and monsters, you of course also have to talk about Root of Darkness' brand of comedy, and how much of it was in the script, how much made up on the spot?


Not much at all really exept Erland's gestures and reaction to stuff and the line that is translated to "groovy" from Evil Dead it is the Swedish word "gedigert", which it a really old fashioned way to say that is "rough quality" or "werry well made" - my granpa used to say that when he was alive so the comedy is more noticable if you know Swedish, this movie might not work as good in English I guess due to how people speak. So the comedy is quite subtle.


What can you tell us about your cast, and why exactly these people?


First of all they were free and willing to be in it exept Greta (Katriina Ruottinen), who was supposed to be a extra, but due to the one we hade in mind got sick really badly we filmed the scenes without her and then the extras showed up and she was so dam good we chose to do a bit of rewriting and put her as Greta due to she was more age apropriate and had more talent, so we paid here a small amount to finish it and it turned out so good. ForLeeroy we called a man we had in mind but he never answered so we thought why not Hugo Hilton Brown as he has done a lot of acting we know him and he was unemployed at that time, but otherwise it was a big big struggle to find extras, but then I lend the sets to a upcoming prodject (Sargad) so when they had actors waiting I used somr of them to film my stuff so at maximum people involved in the movie was in total around 10.


You of course also have to talk about your locations, and what was it like filming there?


The locations were built in my barn out of my grandparents old stuff form the 70's so it was built sets. We also did a short bit in the radio and TV museum in Tobo. There everything is built to look like 1965, the owner of it, Lejf Högström, said here is the key and also he let us use his 1960's Ford Tanus to drive so every set like the cabin and the basement, I built it out of stuff I hade at home and that included some actual renovations on the barn, I built them in so every item from cooking pots to curtains are actual objects from the 70's or before that, but the basement was supposed to be water damaged and the set had a leaking roof, that was a good coincidence when filming so it really looked old and moist.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Well, it was Sweden and cold and dark, we had to plan filming after sunlight or none of it, the filming stretched out to December and we tried to find snow free spots but every one was happy - cold sometimes but no fights, no stress that causes big problems, it was relativly pleasent, we laughed a lot due to the absurdity of the lines being over serious in tone from time to time. The last weeks morale was a bite down due to it starting to snow and we could not film from time to time, the snow came and went and so on. but we made it. Also Jesper's metal armor was not warm but that was pretty much it.


The $64-question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?


Later this year I hope, we have some interested distributor.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical response to Root of Darkness yet?


Well you are one of the first except people involved that have seen it, so I have no clue at all. I usually make movies I want to see, so I hope I don't have the worst taste in movies so I hope the audience will love it or really hate it and tell me that, like how daer you discrase Ingmar Bergman's work or that was terrible now I need to kill myself. That might be an odd thing to want to hear but I also love insult comedy but I think the worst thing would be to have made a movie that is not interesting enough to remember.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Well I have made costumes for Violent Starr for the makers of ABCs of Superheroes. I will move to LA to work on a big thing I don't know how much I can mention of so we will see how that will go, but things are in the works so that will take a lot of my focus for now, but I promise it will be realy cool.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Well when I was 8 I got a book by H.R Giger after I saw a picture of the monster and got fascinated by it thanks to my friend's nerdy mom who knows how he was, and from that moment I wanted to make monsters. When I grew up though no monster movies were made in Sweden, after a VHS marathon of Peter Jackson's splatter movies and the extra on how he made Bad Taste I thought I will make my own. So I started and well it never got finished, stopped made a short thing and then I watched Die You Zombie Bastards! - I got inspired, this is what I want to do, absurd comedy. I had some classes in how to make films but I failed and refused to do stuff as intended which I still do but some conclusions were made so I put more of the monsters and SFX in focus, then camera angels and tecnical stuff. So I have made 4 movies in 8 years, so learning by doing, how else would you learn ... well I watch a lot of movies.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Root of Darkness?


How glad you ask about it, now that I think about it in 2007 I made Rape Man: The Night Humper (released in 2008), a terrible superhero movie about a man figthing crime with his super penis - don't track down a copy and watch it, it is terrible and most of them are in Germany. We had it on sale in Sweden but it got pulled from shelves, which was the first time in a long time that have happened. Then we decided to make a slasher and after some thoughts of what the killer should be dressed we desided a shark so we can make the dumbest shark movie ever, Jaws of the Shark (a shark with legs and a chainsaw) - then Sharknado got made the same year so that benefited us well and then mutated into the idea of making a sequel to the shark movie. We made a Christmas action movie (Kill Team) with mechs and explosion because why not, and that led to make some new contacts, so now I can almost live on making monsters and stuff but to sum it up, in Sweden there are indie moviemakers spread out and we try to connect with them all, so all my movies have been made as a proof that yes, we can make fun movies in Sweden, not only crime movies and stuff you can't market outside Sweden, and it don't have to be more expensive than the crime movies.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Well, planning ahead and tryomg to not steal to much time out of people so as efficient as possible. I also do not like to be stressed out and definitely don't want to stress other people. In a nutshell it's very Swedish, "my leg is broken but don't call the ambulance I don't want to bother them" - so I think being a diva or like "Hitchcock or Kubrick" does not work today due to I want people to come back and be in the next movie.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Caleb Emerson [Caleb Emerson interview - click here], I watch his movie Die You Zombie Bastards! before I started writing to feel that's how I want it, and Jonas Wolsher's movies to see how I don't want it to be. I know him so it is not an insult he is the producer of Root of Darkness. It is good to learn from others' mistakes. Peter Jackson is obvious, I am inspierd mostly by his old work. Ross Petterson, love the craziness, and basicly directors that have made cool stuff with grate limitations, and also I love Uwe Boll, I have all his movies and they are so inspiring on different level. He is a cool guy I feel so good to have done some work on a movie hi is in ABCs of Superheroes.


Your favourite movies?


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Oh, there are a lot ... Die You Zombie Bastards!, Frankenstein's Army, Yor: Hunter of the Future, Evil Aliens, the Alien movies, Predator, Hellraiser, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, Duck! , Guyver, The Thing, American Badass ... I can go on forever, there are so meny good movies.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Dyck Hard, fuck that movie, fuck fuck fuck, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Die Zombiejäger - it was so bad I had to call the director and tell him how terrible it was, he got upset and sad, and now we are good friends and hi is the producer of Root of Darkness.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


My YouTube channel, theer is my building movie props and SFX and replicas:

My Facebook page:

Root of Darkness:

Dino Publishing:


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I hope I don't spell impossibly bad English.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD