[Review] UFO Sweden [Sci-Fi London Film Festival]: Close Encounters and Close Shaves Drive This Fun Feature

Watching UFO Sweden (Sweden, 2023) was one of the most fun times I have had watching a film in recent memory. Hearkening back to the science fiction–action movies of the 1980s and 1990s, this feature boasts impressive special effects and engaging performances.

Denise (Inez Dahl Torhaug, as teenaged Denise) is a rebellious teen whose father disappeared 10 years earlier in 1988 while attempting to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life. As his former assistant when she was a preteen, Denise has a firm grasp on some scientific concepts. She believes he is still alive and with whatever alien life he was trying to contact that fateful night, but she needs assistance in sorting out his enigmatic notes.

Denise falls in with UFO Sweden, a ragtag group of people who investigate exactly the type of phenomenon to which their group name refers. Led by scientist Lennart (Jesper Barksilius) — who became a fall guy when Denise’s father took clandestine notes from him while he was working for a secretive organization that fired him after that. With the group’s help, she attempts to unravel the mysteries behind her father’s disappearance, though skeptical fellow organization member Gunnar (Håkan Ehn) and Police Officer Tomi (Sara Shirpey) stand in her way.

If you are the type of science fiction fan who requires a more realistic, logical approach to space and time theories, you’ll need to bring a more willing suspension of disbelief to UFO Sweden. If you’re in the mood for a rollicking, energetic cinematic ride that pays homage to such predecessors as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The X-Files, Super 8, and Stranger Things, though, you should come away quite happy. 

Indeed, the Crazy Pictures collective, whose members share the directing credits for this film, infuses UFO Sweden with a Speilbergian flair, and does so with aplomb. The special effects look super, the story is as heartwarming as it is thrilling, the visuals are colorful and eye-popping, and the music is wonderfully fitting. Some of the story elements and beats will be rather familiar to genre-film fans, but the heart behind the film helps make up for that. Some characters will also feel rather recognizable, but the members of the sizable cast, led by Torhaug’s magnetic performance and Barksilius’s solid chemistry with her, turn in fine work.

Family friendly though with some occasional adult language, UFO Sweden presses enough nostalgia buttons to bring on smiles without going overboard or being uninventive in that department. It’s a welcome slice of positive science fiction aiming for sheer entertainment value.  

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

UFO Sweden screened as part of Sci-Fi London Film Festival, which takes place in London, U.K. from May 31–June 6, 2023.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.