March 4, 2019 Scars of Xavier (Movie Review)
Even Jeffrey Dahmer questioned his ability to possess normal human emotions. So, what happens when a serial killer from the Czech Republic begins to flashback to his past in hopes of bettering his future? Can sociopaths develop normal emotion or is our killer doomed to an endless cycle of violence? The answer lies inside Scars of Xavier, a new blend of Drama, Horror, and Thriller that arrives to Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, thanks to the good folks at Gravitas Ventures.
By day, middle-aged Xavier (Marc Engel: Death Wish: Zero 2015, Reeperbahn 2016) roams his apartment drinking water and cold coffee, exercising, waving a butcher knife around, and often ignoring the dead women’s bodies stashed in his bathtub. Also, there’s a seriously nosey neighbor to be avoided whenever he goes out, which is fairly regularly. You see, for work, he shines cars at the ironically named Dahmer’s Car Wash alongside a co-worker who doesn’t even know his name.
At night, Xavier roams the streets in search of attractive young women, whom he stalks, kidnaps, and then drags back to his home before he ends their lives. To ensure that he covers his tracks, he then dismembers their bodies and takes them out to the countryside for disposal. It’s a bleak existence and, as with almost all serial killers, we learn that Xavier has some deep-seated mommy (Constanze Wetzel: Schloßhotel Orth series, Berger 2 – Herr Berger sucht die Liebe 2020) issues and a bit of a god complex.
Not exactly a glowing endorsement for humanity, Xavier exists inside a murderous bubble. That is, until he encounters a beautiful woman named Karolina (Alexia von Wismar: Einsatz in Hamburg series, Vaterfreuden 2014), who is down on her luck. Can Karolina become the impetus for change that will save Xavier from killing again, or is he destined for a life without emotion?
Clocking in at 90 minutes, Scars of Xavier was written and directed by Kai E. Bogatzki, director of 2009’s Unter der Oberfläche short and editor of 2016’s Blood Feast. It also features the acting talents of Dirk Sonnenschein (Unter uns series, Volt 2016); Jelly Francis Gaviria (Los Veganeros 2 2016, Clash of Futures mini-series); Isabelle Aring (5 Seasons 2015, The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein 2015); Angelina Markiefka (Darc 2018); and Annika Strauss (13 Minutes 2015, German Angst 2015); as well as Vanessa Tesch and Lamacra in their acting debuts.
Billed as a blend of Drama, Horror, and Thriller, Scars of Xavier fits this categorization and contains elements of the Slasher, as well as drama and thrills steeped in all things inherent in the dark psychology of a serial killer. In fact, it fits perfectly into the recent trend in film and TV that looks to make the sociopathic killer a (somewhat) sympathetic character in the eyes of the audience. Where you sit on that debate will affect how you feel about the film and, therefore, those that have zero interest in exploring the darkest reaches of humanity need not apply.
All of this said, Scars of Xavier has some serious flaws. However, first let’s discuss what the film does right, including its intriguing score by Klaus Pfreundner (The Dark Warrior 2008, Rootwood 2018) that often times dips into Industrial territory. Most important to the success of the film, however, is the excellent performance from Engel as the titular Xavier. Engel portrays his character, who decidedly lacks in morals, with a certain level of heart, providing Xavier with enough subtle nuance to create a man who is not wholly and entirely evil; we are meant to believe that life has made him what he is. While it would be hard to say that a cold-blooded sociopath is ever a truly sympathetic character, Engel certainly gives a performance that provides an exceptional case for nurture (or lack thereof) being the cause behind the downfall of this particular man. In fact, it’s a testament to his acting skills that some viewers will walk away with an ounce of sympathy for a man who so easily decapitates women.
However, the fatal flaws in Scars of Xavier run too deep to ever be entirely overcome. Here, it takes 80% of the film before the key concept in its script and its major turning point occurs with the arrival of Karolina. For the duration, this is a movie that follows a serial killer through his gruesome daily motions, while also observing him flashback on the reasons why he is the way he is today. Nothing more. There is no major plot development, and the majority of the characters, save for two, are merely cannon fodder. This makes for such a painfully slow build that Scars of Xavier often seems more like an exercise in cringe-inducing violence than an actual story. Excellent news for gore fiends, but maybe not so exciting for those seeking a real story arc.
Certainly it would be unfair not to note that the qualities in Scars of Xavier that lend themselves toward a Slasher categorization are well-done: the blood is copious, it splatters, and it’s often believable enough to make you squirm. There is one scene, in particular, that takes a sadistic yet artistic approach to exsanguination, relaying the scene backwards — like a gory Slasher ballet on rewind. It might seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but the film provides several truly poetic takes on death and the bizarre, proving that Bogatzki is a talented director who can think outside of the box.
Unfortunately, it’s very hard for any level of quirky, artful shooting, talented acting and gore to overcome a screenplay that is fatally flawed in its pacing. Scars of Xavier is not an entire misfire, no, but it could have been vastly elevated had certain relationships been developed earlier on and its main character been allotted a better chance at personal evolution. As it stands, Scars of Xavier is neither character nor plot-driven; instead, it is a bloody glimpse into the murderous events in one truly disturbed individual’s life. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Scars of Xavier 3.5 of 5 stars. Oh, and keep watching through the end credits!