Given the excessively gruesome track record of its contributors, it’s unexpected that horror anthology “German Angst” turns out to be about as thought-provoking as it is stomach churning. Make no mistake: you’re in for a few major shocks, courtesy of three of Germany’s most twisted genre authorities. But, with an exception or two among its three stories, the explicit content is not there merely to weed out the wussies, but to challenge the intellect of those horrorphiles who are calloused enough not to bat an eye at the sight of a baby being smashed against a rock or a severed penis in a sink.
“Angst” leads with its shortest piece entitled “Final Girl” (not to be confused with this year’s much-praised slasher parody “The Final Girls” or the recent Abigail Breslin feature “Final Girl”), a bit directed by Jörg Buttgereit of “Nekromantik” notoriety, which concerns a teenage girl (Lola Gave) and her two guinea pigs — one of literal and one of the figurative variety. The latter, a man (Axel Holst) bound and gagged in a bedroom, clearly deserves the horrific fate that we see coming. Buttgereit favors extreme close-ups, an effective measure that provokes the creepy-crawlies even before he really gets down to business. (Also, there’s a great and expressive performance from a rodent named Mucki).
The second act, which is perhaps the most conceptually ambitious and generally unsettling of the trio, comes from Michal Kosakowski of 2012’s murder-fantasy experiment “Zero Killed” (he also produced this anthology). Nazi atrocities committed on the residents of a Polish village in 1943 mirror a violent encounter between deaf-mute couple Jarek and Kasia (Matthan Harris and Annika Strauss) and the group of xenophobic thugs that accost them in an abandoned warehouse in present-day Berlin. The binding element in Kosakowski’s “Make A Wish” is a talisman that was given to Jarek by his grandmother, the only survivor of the ambush decades earlier (easily the most disturbing sequence in the entire movie), which now hangs around his neck. According to the story, the trinket, a beautiful and exotic gem, has the power to transpose the souls of the those chosen by the person holding it, something that comes in handy when they’re interrupted by skinhead Jens (Andreas Pape) and his goons. A violent, nerve-racking, simultaneously thoughtful and infuriating supernatural thriller that ponders identity and human nature.
A German horror anthology wouldn’t be complete without a gory romp in the realm of sexual perversion, and director Andreas Marschall (2011’s “Masks”) delivers it with a smattering (and a splattering) of surrealist style in “Alraune”, a segment that could fairly easily have taken a slot in 2011’s erotic-horror compilation “Little Deaths”. This one revolves around famed model-photographer Eden (Milton Welsh), a character who, while straying from girlfriend Maya (Désirée Giorgetti), is lured into a place that ends up being the very antithesis of his given name. An online hook-up finds Eden (who resembles Mathieu Amalric one moment and Vincent Cassel the next) in a nightclub that undulates to the soothing sounds of German industrial-metal, to meet mysterious Kira (Kristina Kostiv) and have sex and snort coke in a bathroom stall. But the romance is interrupted when Kira is whisked off to a posh penthouse where a society of Pulitzer-caliber characters dance with the devil and the “membership” is irreversible. That is, according to Petrus (Rüdiger Kuhlbrodt), a creepy cult figure who later gets to say “I told you so” after Eden witnesses an extremely bloody, drawn-out suicide with a broken wineglass. Intense, strange and psychedelic, Marschall’s segment closes “German Angst” on an exquisitely morbid, almost elegant note, but not before giving us some seriously cringe-inducing moments that will make you think twice before putting on a blindfold.
“German Angst” is playing at 9:00 PM tonight at the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival.