Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Thomas Kretschmann, Thomas Huber, Keri Russell
Directed by Martin Weisz
Distributed by Lightning Entertainment
In researching the story that inspired Grimm Love, it’s not hard to understand why someone might find the subject matter ripe for film. John McNaughton loosely adapted Henry Lee Lucas’ ghastly confessions for the horrific Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer, so fact-based murder can obviously make for an effective cinematic experience. Here, director Martin Weisz forges a fictional retelling of the crimes of Armin “The Rohtenburg Cannibal” Meiwes, a socially repressed homosexual responsible for the castration and cannibalization of a willing participant. As one might guess, it’s not a particularly light moviegoing experience, nor is it as graphic as one might expect.
Grimm Love is at its strongest when chronicling the life of the main character, Oliver (Thomas Kretschmann). Abandoned by his father as a young boy and raised by a domineering mother, the film explores the path that sets him on the way to murder and cannibalism. Because the narrative isn’t strictly confined to this character study, the psychological aspects of T.S. Faull’s script tend to ring a tad superficial because it never digs deep enough to reveal why Oliver accepts murder as a way of dealing with his desolate existence.
Instead, we spend too much time on an absolutely worthless subplot involving Keri Russell as a grad student researching the events of Oliver’s crimes. The purpose of this is to bridge the gaps in his storyline so jumping from Oliver’s childhood to adulthood is less jarring for the viewer. Unfortunately, every transition back to Felicity plucks you right out of the experience while forcing a far more typical and lifeless story on the audience. Instead of the dreary atmosphere and compelling drama littered throughout the main storyline, we’re left with Russell fuddling around abandoned homes and school hallways without any sort of payoff.
That’s not to infer that the main storyline is without fault. The climactic murder is tastefully handled with the focus set (wisely) on the tension of the killing rather than losing the humanity of it all by splashing around buckets of distracting gore. It takes forever to get there, and there are a few queasy bits along the way – like when the eventual victim picks up a prostitute and begs to have his dick chomped off – gah! – but we’re never told what makes these crazies tick. We only see how miserable their unusual fetishes make them. Weisz resists the temptation of exploiting the subject matter (shocking, considering this could’ve been one sleazy flick) but always keeps us an arm’s length away from completely caring.
But the actors try their damndest. Thomas Kretschmann is always worth watching. From Argento’s underrated Stendhal Syndrome to Jackson’s King Kong remake, he has a knack for disappearing into characters, and his Oliver – a greatly conflicted individual every step of the way – is no exception. Despite the monstrous actions of this murderer, we’re always reminded that this is a confused and tortured human being. It’s a shame his performance isn’t utilized in a better film because, as it stands, it’s one of the few things keeping this lugubrious affair afloat. Thomas Huber is given less to do as his victim, although the moments just prior to his death are harrowing. Simon is desperately looking to fulfill the lifelong fantasy of having his penis chomped off (seriously), and the continued nuance of terror in Huber’s eyes seals the scene in authenticity. There’s so much tragedy in these characters, and the actors tap into every possible ounce of it, guaranteeing at least an ending that leaves a bit of a lasting impression.
Considering the power of these performances and a handful of really good moments throughout the film, there’s just not much else happening here.
Russell takes up far too much time, and her pretentious voiceover is nothing short of groan-inducing. Her final scenes involve her coming into possession of the tape depicting the actual murder, and her reaction is both over-the-top and heavy-handed. What else was she expecting from a video in which a cannibal slices the cock off of a willing participant!? More time should’ve been spent on expanding the main characters rather than creating a glorified framing device to plod the narrative along.
Visually, there’s a lot to like about Martin Weisz’s style as his visual palette mirrors the dreary story and delivers the appropriate atmosphere. It’s not hard to see why Fox gave him the job of directing 2007’s Hills Have Eyes 2, presumably a result of his work here. There’s a talented director in Weisz, and his ability to draw palpable energy out of the male cast is admirable, but he never overcomes the pacing issues or the overall forgettable experience of sitting through this.
Grimm Love is another one of Fangoria’s ‘FrightFest’ flicks, and while it’s a hard sell for anyone looking for straight-up horror, those with the patience for this occasionally interesting, macabre drama might find something of value. It’s probably of most relevance to those with an interest in the source case of Armin Meiwes, although the sympathetic light in which it examines these events might spark some ire. There was a good film somewhere in here, but it never realizes its potential. Sure, it’s one of the more watchable ‘FrightFest’ installments, but from what I’ve seen, that’s not really saying all that much.
2 1/2 out of 5