26th Oct2015

Mayhem 2015: ‘German Angst’ Review

by Mondo Squallido

Stars: Lola Gove, Axel Holst, Anika Strauss, Matthan Harris, Denis Lyons, Milton Welsh, Désirée Giorgetti, Kristina Kostiv, Rüdiger Kuhlbrodt | Directed by Jörg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski, Andreas Marschall

german-angst-poster

Regular readers may know that whenever a new underground horror film gets announced; I can get instantly overtaken by doubt. I have had too many underwhelming and tedious experiences. Every now and then, a film comes around that isn’t a throwback, isn’t a generic slasher or an extreme gorefest with no actual weight. When I first found out that Jörg Buttgereit was teaming up with other creatives to make an anthology, I was pretty damn excited! I have followed the project on and off since I first caught wind of the it and now the film has been screened as part of this years Mayhem Horror Film Festival AND Grimmfest, as well as being released in Germany on DVD and Blu-Ray. Naturally, I felt obliged to check it out. Will it live up to the hype? Will it meet or even exceed my unnecessarily high expectations?

FINAL GIRL – Directed by Jörg Buttgereit

A beautiful young girl wakes up in a Berlin flat one morning. In the bedroom next door, a half-naked middle-aged man lies strapped to the bed. The girl doesn’t want to be the victim anymore…

Final Girl kicks off the anthology perfectly. Lola Gave (in her first role) stars as a young girl who is at first, seemingly innocent and carefree. She has her pet guinea pig (Mucki, yes the guinea pig has an IMDb credit) and posters on her wall. That bubble is popped rather quickly as we find out that she is the victim of sexual abuse and she has her abuser (Axel Holst, You’re Dead…) held captive in the next bedroom. Through flashback we see the events leading up to what is a brutal series of vengeful, bloody torture at the hand of the young girl. To say she gets revenge and justice is an understatement. She really goes to town in the nastiest way possible. It becomes even more satisfying and justified to the audience when things are revealed about the abuser. It’s a short and sweet tale that has been done before, but Buttgereit handles it in a way that it feels fresh and more than just an excuse to have brutal torture scenes, some of which are prolonged and often shot with unflinching close-up. We hear the girls story through narration and it’s quite legitimately philosophical in parts with her comparing humanity with the life off a guinea pig. Although beautifully shot, the film is ultimately ugly. My only real complaint about Buttgereit’s film was the length. This is the shortest film of the anthology. That being said, it’s a sucker punch that sets the tone and gets your attention.

MAKE A WISHDirected by Michal Kosakowski

Make a Wish depicts a powerful ‘if-only’ scenario in which a young deaf-mute couple living in Berlin are attacked by a group of hooligans. However, they are in possession of a mysterious talisman that has already changed the course of history. The victims manage to turn the tables on their assailants by way of wishful thinking and wreak a terrible revenge, albeit paying a heavy price.

For me, this is the weakest of the three films. It’s also a film that I found unintentionally quite amusing. The young deaf-mute couple (Anika Strauss, Seed 2, and Matthan Harris, The Unflicted) decide to spend their day by taking a romantic stroll to an industrial estate. Once they find their romantic hideaway; an abandoned factory, they’re rudely interrupted by a group of thugs. As they’re being physically and verbally abused we are treated to flashbacks of war torn Germany and a small group of villagers being tormented and eventually murdered by a group of Nazi soldiers. The tables are turned when one of the young girls from the village uses a talisman in her possession to switch places with the commandant. Back to present day and wouldn’t you know it? The young couple have that exact same talisman and use it to repeat history. Although a mean spirited and brutal film, there wasn’t anything too powerful for me, both in terms of aesthetic or emotional value. It was quite an interesting tale of history repeating itself, but that’s probably the best part. My biggest problem with this short is actually the reason why I found it unintentionally entertaining; the group of thugs. Obviously they were to the young couple what the Nazis were to villagers, but the fact that they were breaking in to random spats of English and even had a British member named Darren (Denis Lyons, Absolution), took a lot of the tension and overall dread out of the situation. All in all, I feel that this was a missed opportunity.

ALRAUNEDirected by Andreas Marschall

Alraune follows the nocturnal trip of an urban digital native into the world of a secret fetish society, which promises the best sex ever — through the magic of the Mandragora plant. But the transgressive experience has horrible side effects: he is confronted with a monstrous and deadly manifestation of his own sexual obsessions.

Alraune is the final and longest of the films. We follow Eden (Milton Welsh, The Grand Budapest Hotel), a sleazy, yet slick fashion photographer who has a taste for hardcore pornography, chat rooms and everything seedy.He recounts to his lover, Maya (Désirée Giorgetti, Age of the Dead) a tale about an encounter with a mysterious and beautiful dancer by the name of Kira (Kristina Kostiv, Ein Teil von mir…) with whom he meets online. The pair arrange a meeting at a local club where they get well ‘acquainted’ in the toilet (as most good romance stories start). Obsessed, he later tracks her down to an apartment where he meets an equally mysterious man named Petrus (Rüdiger Kuhlbrodt, Der Tunnel) who promises him an experience he won’t forget. The apartment doubles up as the pleasure palace for a secret fetish society, a place where all your darkest and wildest fantasies will come true. Petrus introduces Eden to the Mandragora plant (Alraune is the German translation). A plant that he promises will provide Eden with some of the greatest sexual pleasures he will ever experience. Unfortunately for Eden, the plant has some rather startling side effects that will affect his life for the worse. Mandragora can also refer to a demon. Maybe Eden should have spent more time brushing up on his horticultural studies as opposed to ‘brushing’ up on himself when he’s on the internet! Although the most visually striking and accomplished of the three films, I found this one to be a bit too slow. The film is predominately English speaking and both myself and my better half (who is German) found the script and its execution too clean. Of course, being surrounded by those who speak the language, that’s only a personal observation that shouldn’t be too distracting to most. Even though some of the imagery is just as brutal as both previous films, the film shines with its psychological elements. Think of the best aspects of the Silent Hill franchise and Jacob’s Ladder melded together. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but the film is well acted overall. Those looking for some nasty twist and turns will be pleasantly surprised with how the film pans out. A true descent in to techno madness.
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Overall, I really enjoyed German Angst. Even though there may not be a wrap around story, the films are connected. All are set in Berlin and show the dark side of the capital and essentially have the same crew. Eagle eyed viewers will also see aspects of each film interlaced at points. All three films are shot nicely with great atmosphere and there is brutality by the bucketload. Those who have become tired of the over-saturation in recent years of bloody, extreme horror flicks will definitely appreciate what the film has to offer. The project is essentially a reaction to what the German film industry has essentially become; full of uninspired romantic comedies. This is their love letter to the likes of Friedrich Wilhelm and Robert Wiene. There is something fresh and exciting about this project from its initial conception all the way through to the finished product. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great step in the right direction and will hopefully continue and ultimately inspire a new generation of filmmakers. If you are looking for an interesting experience, definitely give this a go.

German Angst is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and DVD/Blu-Ray Mediabook from Pierrot le Fou (Germany).

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