June 18, 2018 German Angst (Special Edition Blu-ray Review)
Some things are universal: the enjoyment of being scared, bloody good Horror films, and pain. Out of Germany comes the aptly-titled German Angst, an anthology of Horror that arrives to Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, thanks to Artsploitation Films.
The first tale in the collection is Final Girl, a truly bizarre and haunting vignette. Here, a teen girl (Lola Gave in her acting debut) lives in a filthy apartment with her beloved guinea pig. Oh, and there is also that man (Axel Holst: Verbotene Liebe series, Lindenstraße series) tied up, gagged, and blindfolded in the bedroom. The story that follows entails a razorblade, pair of sheering scissors, and an electric carving knife for good measure. The short film clocks in at approx. 25 mins, is presented in German with English subtitles, and appears thanks to Director Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik 1987, Schramm: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer 1993).
In Make A Wish, the second segment in the series, a deaf couple – Jacek (Matthan Harris: The Inflicted 2012, Sudden Reality 2015) and Kasia (Annika Strauss: La petite mort 2009, Game Over 2009) – are partaking of some UrbEx, wandering the hallways and rooms of a decrepit, abandoned building somewhere in Berlin. They stumble upon a circle of chairs and decide to have a seat, make-out a little, and then Jacek shares the story of a talisman he holds in his possession. For this, we are transported to 1943 Poland, where his grandmother (Lucy Lane in her acting debut), then a young girl, encounters a group of Nazis and is saved by a piece of family magic.
Back in the here-and-now, a group of Skinheads looking to make trouble arrive on the scene and discover Jacek and Kasia. Headed up by the brutal Jens (Andreas Pape: Sounds of Fear 2004, La petite mort 2009), the group – which also consists of Darren (Denis Lyons: Absolution 2015, The Young Karl Marx 2017), Gottfried (Daniel Faust: Einsatz in Köln – Die Kommissare series, Wie Männer über Frauen reden 2016), and Hilda (Martina Schöne-Radunski: Kaptn Oskar 2013, Kim hat einen Penis 2018) – taunt the couple. When they learn that the couple are both of Polish descent, their sadistic torture grows to new heights, and not everyone will survive! The short film clocks in at approx. 30 mins, is presented in German and English with some subtitles, and appears thanks to Director Michal Kosakowski (Just Like the Movies short 2006, Zero Killed documentary 2012).
The third and final segment is entitled Alraune. In this sinful tale, Berlin’s best model photographer, Eden (Milton Welsh: Conan the Barbarian 2011, The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014), has a fight with his girlfriend, Maya (Désirée Giorgetti: Ritual – Una storia psicomagica 2013, Alaska 2015), that instigates a whole new world of trouble. In fact, almost as soon as Maya storms out of their apartment, Eden finds himself online setting up a date with an anonymous girl.
At the Industrial dance club Mabuse, he encounters a Ukrainian siren named Kira (Kristina Kostiv: DeXit: Der nächste Flüchtling bist du 2016, Berlin Syndrome 2017), and after a lusty incident in the bathroom, he follows her to a red-door, members-only club. Here, he meets Petrus (Rüdiger Kuhlbrodt: Stadtklinik 1994, Wolff’s Turf series), the mysterious man who is seemingly in-charge of the entire club. What follows is a bizarre and unique journey full of nightmarish murmurs. Alraune (which actually translates to “mandrake,” yes the root) clocks in at approximately 60 minutes, is presented in English, and was directed by Andreas Marschall (Tears of Kali 2004, Masks 2011).
In German Angst, each of the three films is actually quite distinct from its contemporaries, with Final Girl and Make A Wish trafficking in real world body horror, while Alraune is the odd woman out, a tale embedded in a hauntingly supernatural creation that one must never gaze upon directly. So, while the three work well together and form a cohesive unit, they are also able to stand on their own, individual merits as short films. In fact, with some further development and plot-thickening, Alraune is ripe for a feature-length, solo presentation.
Final Girl is, in some ways, the most disturbing of the three, as it tells a tale of malice seemingly without reason or forethought. Here, a young girl – played by Gave – goes off the rails of a crazy train and does a Lorena Bobbitt on a restrained man. Who he is and why he deserves such a fate does not seem clearly established, however, distinct reasoning may exist but simply be mired in the subtitles or visual cues – many of which are German texts. Whatever the case, Gave gives a truly creeptastic performance as a teen girl who commits the ultimate acts of body horror.
In Make A Wish, there is an embedded, underlying racial tension, along with a much deeper gaze into our world’s inability to empathize and step into another’s shoes also, perhaps most sadly, to defy a role that life has seemingly set out for us in order to do what is right. While there is certainly some emotional, truly abhorrent body horror taking place here, there is a message in the film’s German/Polish tensions and its well-acted characters. Also, this is the short film that provides perhaps the best line of the entire collection: “Pain is international.”
Leading the charge are Pape (as gang leader Jens) and Harris (as deaf Jacek), who each feed off one another to give truly stellar performances. Though Harris – along with Strauss (as Kasia) – never speaks a single word, he fluidly portrays a world of pain and anguish with his body language and facial expressions. Perhaps because he is able to speak, Pape excels at being truly ominous, a demandingly harsh and domineering presence who casts a vile shadow over all those around him. He is genius as a Skinhead gang leader, and while that might not seem a proud accomplishment, in this role, he sets an entire ordeal into motion through his sheer brutality. His comrades are largely superfluous noise, though Schöne-Radunski (as gang member Hilda) is a truly obnoxious, entirely loud approximation of a German Harley Quinn. You will hate her and for this, she has done her acting job exceedingly well!
Alraune is clearly meant to be the star of this show, and on many levels it succeeds. With some additional work, the film could easily be a feature-length presentation that stands on its own two feet, and a solid offering into the Supernatural field of Horror. Here, the story is one that defies all explanations, and just something you have to experience to understand. That said, its entire cast does an excellent jobs in their roles, with Welsh (as lead character Eden) and Kuhlbrodt (as club head Petrus) as the stand-outs. Kuhlbrodt is the proverbial secret club owner, an older man with an air of mystery and sophistication. Similarly, Welsh does a good job of depicting his character, a top-notch photographer who, after a fight with his live-in girlfriend, chases young tail and ends up standing before the red-door of a members-only club. He is cocky at first, but ultimately chastened by his horrific experiences.
The problem with Alraune is that it is either too long for a short film or too short for a feature-length offering. With an hour of material preceding the offering, its own runtime of an hour feels a bit slow; but had it been presented on its own, it might feel a bit abrupt. It holds its own as a solid offering very easily, but the nearly two-hour runtime for the entire collection seems to happily wave the middle-finger in the face of America’s rampant ADD attention spans. Perhaps Germans are just a much more patient people?
Whatever the case, the collection is enjoyable, cohesive, and should probably best be watched in 2-3 sittings for those of us suffering from undiagnosed ADD. Each of the three directors bring their own niche of Horror to the screen, weaving together a collection that does, in fact, show signs of collaboration between the 3 directors in witty little details (in a scene in Marschall’s Alraune, there is a poster for a Kosakowski film). The end result is a Horror anthology that stands-out as something above many of its contemporaries, intelligent and bloody, with everything from social commentary to bizarrely sexual, earthy creatures. There is certainly a lot to be said for each of the segments that compose German Angst, and for this, we Americans can rejoice! For these reasons, CrypticRock give German Angst 4 of 5 stars.