03rd Feb2014

‘Big Bad Wolves’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Doval’e Glickman, Menashe Noy, Dvir Benedek, Nati Kluger, Ami Weinberg, Guy Adler | Written and Directed by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado


Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado made quite a splash at FrightFest a few years back with Rabies, the first Isreali horror film which made a little bit of history by being so popular that a third screening was arranged for it. I was in the audience for the film myself that year but on a day where I was possibly the most drunk I have ever been in my life, I unfortunately did myself a disservice and can’t recall all that much about it. Having some karma to re-balance, I took to Big Bad Wolves in the most positive frame of mind I could, buoyed by the fact that Quentin Tarantino had praised it as the best film of 2013 and that the word  coming out of last year’s FrightFest, where it closed the festival, was overwhelmingly positive also. For the most part, I’m delighted to report that this is justified.

To craft a film which talks about man’s propensity to get revenge first and ask questions later but blend this wholly serious topic, made more so when the vengeance is connected to child abuse, with a feel which delves into pitch-black comedy and verbal slapstick at times is an insanely challenging thing to put upon yourself. The fact that Keshales and Papushado manage to do this and never make it feel inappropriate feels like witchcraft.

This is aided by the fact that despite being “Big Bad Wolves”, determined policeman Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) and grieving father Dror (Rotem Keinan) are at heart, impulsive and emotionally stunted men forged by their society to act tough and with impunity but are little boys underneath. Both of these men are so sure of themselves that they, at least at first, will take on moral quandries and dismiss them entirely, who will pick on a target, in this case meek teacher Gidi (Tzahi Grad) without any physical evidence just because he doesn’t act or look as a “man” should. As the film plays out, we learn to alter our perceptions of all of these men and this is done through comedy as well as through tension-filled dialogue exchanges. It’s a brave decision from the writer-directors and one which sticks in the mind, with excellent performances from the central trio adding to this nicely.

Big Bad Wolves is also technically extremely satisfying. The directing duo craft an oppresive mood, but one which feels like it exists in the real world, from the off with locations in which the desolation of economic and social despair feel palpable and the cinematography by Giora Bejach drenches the world in decreasing light and increasing despair as the film reaches its climax.

If there is a complaint to be made about Big Bad Wolves, it is one which in my discussions online after seeing the film, is one which seems to be a rather subjective opinion. By the end of the film, we are given a very defenite answer as to the central questions posed by the film and for me, I felt a tang of disappointment with this. Through the story, I felt the film was going in a direction which felt morally ambiguous, and was very interesting in this, but by the end, while there are questions for the audience to ponder about their own feelings through the film, it does point in a particular direction about whether the characters in the film were justified in what they did, at least in the context of their own selves if not the viewer’s mindset.

This issue in itself is in a way, a positive reflection on the film. Big Bad Wolves is an entertaining but troubling film which makes you reflect on things more than any other horror I can remember in quite some time. It is uncompromising and unflinching stuff but is also a film which never wallows in its darkness. It’s an easy recommend and one I can see myself coming back to soon.

**** 4/5


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