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Swedish sci-fi horror film hits Chinese screens
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A Swedish film called Life-a Nordic version of the 1979 space thriller Alien is making waves on China's screens.

In its opening weekend over May 19-21, the sci-fi horror movie knocked Marvel's superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 off the second slot of the box-office charts, even as the top slot remained held by the Indian hit Dangal, a biographical sports drama, according to live tracker Cbooo.cn.

So far, the $58 million Swedish movie has already earned 25 percent of its budget in China, with its box-office takings from the Chinese mainland surpassing 100 billion yuan ($14.51 million) by Monday.

The Sony Pictures' movie was released in North America on March 24, but Chinese fans had to wait for nearly two months to see it.

For most Chinese viewers, the film's theme as well as its star power were a major draw. And sci-fi horror fans have more to cheer about as Ridely Scott's Alien: Covenant, the sixth movie of the Alien franchise, will release on the Chinese mainland in mid-June.

Reflecting on the success of the Swedish film, Tan Fei, a film producer and critic, says that the combination of space exploration and a carnivorous monster has rarely been seen on Chinese screens, which makes the storyline interesting for viewers on the mainland.

"But the most eye-catching parts of the film are the scenes in the international space station," says Tan.

The film is about six astronauts' space nightmare, and a star-studded cast play the scientists.

Most of the actors are familiar faces to Chinese audiences, such as American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, known for Ang Lee's Oscar-winner Brokeback Mountain; Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, popular with Chinese due to Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation; Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, lead star of Marvel's hit Deadpool; and Japanese Hiroyuki Sanada, familiar to the Chinese thanks to Chen Kaige's 2005 fantasy The Promise.

In the film, the plot takes off with the six scientists' discovering of life on Mars. But the single-cell organism, which looks like a transparent starfish, quickly grows up and starts to hunt humans.

Another feature of the film is that unlike most Hollywood blockbusters that see good triumphing over evil, the movie has a dark twist, which has received mixed reactions from Chinese viewers.

On the reviewing site Douban, a barometer of popularity, the movie received 6.7 points out of 10.

While many viewers hailed the end, some saw it as confusing.

But for industry watchers, one of the biggest surprises is that the film saw not cuts, which is seen as a signal of the Chinese authorities opening up to diverse genres.

Meanwhile, a possible rise in the number of imported films into China from 38 annually is ringing alarm bells.

According to the Beijing-based film industry watcher Jiang Yong: "If locals get used to seeing medium-budget Hollywood movies such as Life, domestic filmmakers will face big challenges and have less space to survive."

Jiang says that already has occurred in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

So, he says, Chinese filmmakers should learn from Hollywood how to use a limited budget to make quality content.

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