Serbian Film, A (2010) - Dread Central
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Serbian Film, A (2010)




 Reviewed by Evil Andy

Starring Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Slobodan Bestic

Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic

“Where there is no life, there is no art” intones the snuff film director in A Serbian Film, but it might as well be the tagline of the movie. While much ink has been spilled regarding the boundary obliterating sex and violence on display in this self-funded Serbian shocker, it is the artistry of the film that one hopes it will be recognized, and eventually remembered, for. However, while full of raw power, the film’s commentary is somewhat blunt, and due to its Eastern European provenance, and a superficial similarity to torture porn, it seems far more likely that A Serbian Film will be regarded simply as the terminus of onscreen depravity.

It truly is hard to imagine any film going farther in its depiction of brutality, and with so much of its running time spent assaulting your limbic system, A Serbian Film seems destined to straddle the line between torture porn and other more highbrow investigations of sex and violence like Videodrome.

In reviewing A Serbian Film, one is left with the dilemma of where to start. Even if you admire the assured debut direction from Srdjan Spasojevic, the lack of exposition, the pure filmic use of visuals and sound to drive the story, the beautiful cinematography and agitating industrial score, there’s a compulsion to first address the elephant-cock in the room.

[Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers]. Since other reviews have already spilled the beans and since hearing about the graphic scenes will do nothing to diminish their impact, here goes. Yes, you will see in graphic detail massive real and rubber dicks being inserted into dead and drugged women, men, and children; eye sockets skull fucked; mouths gagged to the point of suffocation’ and infamously, a literally seconds old infant raped to death.

That last paragraph was uncomfortable to even write, and trust me, you can’t imagine what it’s like to watch. However, it’s not the excessively literal depictions of sexual violence that are in and of themselves disturbing. The key to the power of the visuals is really the tone and masterful direction. Much more is felt than is ever shown. This is no Murder Set Pieces or August Underground concerned simply with fidelity of gore. Even those who are angered and upset by what is shown must begrudgingly admit that they are responding to the craft of cinema not the explicitness of pornography.

That said, it’s still worth asking why the filmmakers felt the need to use such explicit imagery. At the Fantasia screening both the director and co-writer (Alexsander Radivojevic) were quick to explain that the violence was metaphorical and that people in Serbia felt “fucked from birth through death”. Todd Brown at Twitch smartly compared certain scenes in A Serbian Film to Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which eating babies is presented as a solution to Ireland’s hunger problem. The difference is that one is a crass literal depiction of being “fucked from birth” instead of a more refined, artistic metaphor like Swift’s. There’s nothing wrong with pushing boundaries, especially when you do it as effectively as A Serbian Film does, but writing off the perversity on display as simply metaphorical is a bit disingenuous. These guys are going for shock value even if their film aspires to much more than just that.

With that out of the way, it should be noted that the bulk of the depravity comes in the latter half of the film. An admirable amount of time is spent setting up the story of ex-porn star Milos (Todorovic) and his young family, who are trying to make a go of having a normal life. Money problems are the impetus for Milos’ return to porn, but the real reason seems to be Milos’ difficulty adjusting to civilian life. He is contacted by the Mephistophelian “artistic porn” director Vukmir (Trifunovic), who offers Milos enough money to retire permanently if he will take part in a film in which everyone knows the plot but him. At the same time we are introduced to Marko (Bestic), Milos’ cop brother who covets his wife and family to the point of using family videos as sexual aids. In the context of the Serbian civil war, this familial rot takes on an ominous, rather than licentious, tone.

The shooting of the film-within-a-film begins slowly with Vukmir directing not only Milos, but also the audience through an ever-escalating series of disconcerting vignettes. The starting point is a scene in which Milos is fellated while monitors show scenes of a teenage girl eating a popsicle and applying lip gloss. Much like in Videodrome the viewer is as complicit as the characters, and as the scenes become ever more depraved, we are left squirming in our seats, unable to distance ourselves from the onscreen activities.

And ultimately, what is onscreen is what counts in A Serbian Film. It is a pure cinematic experience, composed less of story and plot than visuals and sound. For this reason the familial disintegration that is at the heart of the film never really took root for me, and unlike comparable films like Irreversible, which was emotionally gut-wrenching, A Serbian Film left me emotionally distant. While this numbness to repeated trauma might be the point, the drama is a big enough part of the movie that the failure to evoke an emotional response to the characters still feels like the biggest weakness of the film.

It’s hard to know where A Serbian Film will end up. It seems unlikely that it will ever get a theatrical distribution in its current form, and who knows if an edited version will hold up to scrutiny. With a title that seems constructed to define the cinema of an entire country, it would be a shame if certain explicit scenes overshadow the rest of the film. It’s easy to imagine that with some moderate editing the artistry underlying A Serbian Film could be brought to the foreground, allowing this truly interesting and exciting film to gain the exposure it deserves.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions



Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish


Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On



Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin

When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.


  • Film


Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility



Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita

The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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