In June 2016, I threw myself into an immersive theatre…
‘A Serbian Film’ got pulled from FrightFest after the BBFC insisted on a raft of cuts. London’s Raindance has just announced it will be screened as part of their festival. Aside from the graphic horrors it depicts, it’s hard not to be shocked by how thoughtful the film is, says Stewart Who?
I used to be a horror obsessive. As a teenager, my subscription to the gore adoring Fangoria magazine raised eyebrows at the local newsagents. The publication pored over X-rated splatter fests and video nasties of the era, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been sold to a minor. But it was.
Consequently, my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of James Dean, Elvis, Madonna…and Michael Myers (Halloween), Christopher Lee as Dracula and Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th). There’s much about the horror genre that appeals to the mindset of male adolescents. Sexual frustration, alienation, peer pressure and revenge are the relentless themes of most horrors. Unsurprisingly, they chime with the fetid emotions that torment most teenage boys.
Maturity can radically change one’s perspective on the horror genre. Getting laid helps, as does the consequent education in human relationships. Life teaches you that horror films trade in two dimensional characters, which can appear stupidly funny or woefully inadequate, depending on experience and the film in question. If you’re unfortunate enough to be the victim of a crime, that too, can colour your perception of depicted violence.
Watch at your peril
Considering that Srdjan Spasojevic’s, ‘A Serbian Film’ was pulled from FrightFest and is mired in outrage, I thought carefully about watching the movie. Inevitably, once given a copy, it taunted me, like a dare in the shape of a DVD.
One reviewer regretted the fact that once seen, it couldn’t be ‘unwatched’. Already aware of the film’s premise, the Grand Guignol shocks were slightly less visceral, but breathtaking all the same. Equally shocking was the fact that it’s a thoughtful, brilliantly directed, sharply acted and slickly shot film. Didn’t see that coming at all.
The sense of dread which accompanies the early scenes in the film are almost unbearable, but far from mindless. The viewer is intellectually provoked and challenged long before the sustained assault on the eyes and ears. As a horror, it’s a masterpiece of nightmarish proportions, but it’s lazy to just dismiss if as torture porn.
Drugs, porn and moral quandaries
The viewer is forced to take a journey of discovery with retired porn star Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) and this is done via series of flashbacks, viewed tapes and drug-fuelled memories. The shuffling of time and perspective elevates this film above your bog standard horror. In many ways, it renders the film an even more nerve shredding experience.
‘A Serbian Film’ opens with the protagonist’s son watching one of his father’s old porn movies (starring his father) that was accidentally left lying around. His parents explain that “it’s like a cartoon for grown-ups” and later explain arousal and masturbation to the kid in terms of playful analogies.
The scenes are handled delicately, with a subversive honesty that’s totally disarming, especially in light of how the film progresses. From the offset, you’re left questioning the parents morals….and your own. That self-quizzing rollercoaster just gets faster and darker as the movie progresses.
Demonic porn director
Every frame has been considered with care and executed with undeniable skill, if the subject matter wasn’t so dark, you might even say it had been beautifully shot. Coupled with a soundtrack that’s like a rusty electro needle sliding down a blackboard in an abandoned nursery…and you have a truly upsetting film.
Yes, it’s bleak, inhuman and astounding, but ‘A Serbian Film’ is in danger of being overwhelmed by the horrified hype. Aside from the Vukmir, the demonic porn director (Sergej Trifunović), who’s menace verges on camp, the performances and script are note perfect, a rare accolade for any horror film.
London’s Raindance festival has just announced that ‘A Serbian Film’ will be screened during the event’s 11-day run, which begins later this month. No doubt this will prompt unparalleled outrage from more people who haven’t seen the film.
Despite the graphic brutality, ‘A Serbian Film’ sails way above the likes of ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’. Not only because it makes them look like watery pretenders, but because in spite of everything, it’s obvious that the entire production team, from performers to editors, have conspired to make a piece of truly hellish art.
First published: TheHospitalclub.com, September 2010