Murderous Trance

Murderous Trance (also titled The Guardian Angel)[1] is a psychological thriller film written and directed by Arto Halonen and starring Pilou Asbæk, Josh Lucas, Rade Šerbedžija, Cyron Melville and Sara Soulié. It is based on a true story about the astonishing hypnosis murders that took place in Denmark in the 1950s.[2] The hypnosis murders is the only known case where the court has been able to prove a hypnotizer guilty and sentence him for hypnotizing someone else to commit a crime.[3]

Murderous Trance
Film poster
Directed byArto Halonen
Written byArto Halonen
StarringPilou Asbæk
Josh Lucas
Rade Šerbedžija
Cyron Melville
Sara Soulié
Release date
  • March 29, 2018 (2018-03-29)
Running time
102 minutes

Murderous Trance had its international festival premiere at the 34th Warsaw Film Festival in fall 2018. It was released in several countries during 2018–2020, including Finland, Denmark, France, Spain, UK and Japan. Nagra/myCinema[4] brought the film to theatrical distribution in USA at the end of 2019, but it was cut short due to the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.[5] Murderous trance's North America digital release through MVD Entertainment Group is on February 9, 2021.[6]

During the film's premiere in Finland and Denmark, it provoked a lot of discussion in the media among psychiatrists about the possibility to hypnotize people to act against their own morals, and the specialists unanimously confirmed it plausible. The most reputable newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, published a comprehensive article in its science section about it. In the article Hannu Lauerma, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Turku, stated, ‘In a continuous long-term indirect influence by suggestion you can make things seem other than what they actually are. In that state a person doesn’t consider oneself doing anything bad, but instead truly believes that the act is good and inevitable.’[7]

The independent film award Gold Movie Awards nominated Murderous Trance in four categories in its Best of the Year Award in London in January 2020. Murderous Trance won Best Feature Film Award and Best Actor Award (Josh Lucas).[8]

The internationally produced movie was filmed in Denmark and Croatia. Halonen has also co-written a novel, The Guardian Angel, based on the same incidents. The book was published by WSOY and it has been translated into five languages: Finnish, Danish, Portuguese, Serbian and most recently to Italian in October 2020.[9]

Arto Halonen was one of the first ones who were able to find the hypnosis murderer Palle Hardrup [da; fi], who had changed his name after having been released from prison in 1967. Halonen is also one of the few to whom Palle Hardrup agreed to give interviews. They first met in 1997, twenty years before the movie was made.


Criminal investigator Anders Olsen (Pilou Asbæk) begins to solve a case in which a bank robber shoots two bank clerks and runs into the streets of Copenhagen with the money. When arrested, he claims to have committed the crime alone. Some eyewitnesses say the robber seemed to have been in a trance, which makes the case even more complicated and peculiar. Olsen finds out that the accused has been in prison with the charismatic Bjørn Schouw Nielsen (Josh Lucas) and begins to suspect that Nielsen had hypnotized his fellow inmate to commit the crime for him. But could it be possible – and if so, how can the true perpetrator be caught? Olsen seeks help from a well-known psychiatrist specialized in hypnosis (Rade Šerbedžija), with whom Olsen delves deeper into the world of mental manipulation. Absorbed in the criminal investigation, Olsen does not realize that the mysterious Nielsen has secretly befriended his young wife (Sara Soulié). Soon the mysterious case touches him closer than he could have imagined.[10]



The film was shot in Denmark and Croatia.


The film was released in theaters in Finland on March 3, 2018 and in the United States on December 6, 2019.[11] Related to Murderous Trance's North America digital release on February 9, 2021 Josh Lucas visited the Talk[12] and the Drew Barrymore Show.[13]


  1. ^ "Murderous Trance".
  2. ^ "Murderous trance review".
  3. ^ "The Guardian Angel aka Murderous Trance (Halonen, 2018): Finland, Denmark, Croatia".
  4. ^ McNary, Dave (June 27, 2019). "Film News Roundup: Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Sets Awards Show for Jan. 11".
  5. ^ "Josh Lucas Wants to Control Your Mind". PR Newswire. 7 November 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  6. ^ Sarah Musnicky, ed. (Dec 23, 2020). "[News] MURDEROUS TRANCE Trailer - Who Controls Your Mind?".
  7. ^ "Hypnoosi on väärissä käsissä vaarallinen ase, eikä sitä saisi opettaa kenelle tahansa – Tanskalaisen ryöstömurhan tarina osoittaa, että taitava hypnotisoija saa ihmisen tekemään mitä vain" [Hypnosis is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, and it should not be taught to anyone - the story of the Danish robbery shows that a skilled hypnotist makes a person do anything.]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish).
  8. ^ "Annual Winners List 2019".
  9. ^ "The Guardian Angel". September 29, 2017.
  10. ^ "Story - Guardian Angel".
  11. ^ Fuoco-Karasinski, Christina (3 December 2019). "'Murderous Trance:' Josh Lucas explores hypnosis in new film". The Entertainer! Magazine. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Today's special guest is Josh Lucas. Air Date: Feb 2, 2021".
  13. ^ "Josh Lucas Honors His Family Members Working on the Coronavirus Pandemic Frontlines".

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