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Natalie Stein, a successful lawyer, emigrated with her parents from Germany to the USA at a very young age. The last things that stand between her and a happy life with her daughter and son, are the divorce settlement with her lowlife husband Tim and a nasty drinking habit. But a lot more is about to happen that she didn't bargain for when her dog goes missing and her mortally wounded husband appears on the doorstep, informing her that the children have been kidnapped. By the time the police arrives at her house, Tim's body has mysteriously vanished. When not much later one million dollars, a bag of cocaine and some gangsters enter the game, Natalie finds herself in less than no time tied to a chair in her own kitchen. Let the torture begin... Written by
Well, what the hell... Why don't I be the first guy to comment on Olaf Ittenbach's latest outburst of cinematographic violence? First off, in order to make this comment a bit more useful to anyone who might read it (or just to give you an idea where I'm coming from), let me say that I've only seen one Andreas Schnaas movie (VIOLENT SH!T 2), and I simply loathed it. Couldn't even laugh with it, and I'm not interested in seeing anything more by this guy. I've only seen one Jörg Buttgereit movie so far (NEKROMANTIK), and I basically fast-forwarded my way through that one (sorry guys). Just couldn't get into it, I guess. And when it comes to director Uwe Boll, I'll just let other people comment on his work. Now, regarding Olaf Ittenbach: I have a lot more appreciation for the man's work (as a director and especially as a special effects artist), because he managed to entertain me quite a bit with the two movies I've seen from him so far, LEGION OF THE DEAD and HOUSE OF BLOOD (aka CHAIN REACTION). So, I guess I can safely say that if anybody throws a random Ittenbach movie at me, I'll catch and watch it.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can get to... DARD DIVORCE. Basically, it's Ittenbach's take on the vastly growing and ever so popular "Torture Horror" genre. And let me tell you right away that there's good and bad news (I'll let you figure out yourself what falls in which category exactly). It really feels like an Ittenbach movie. The thin, muddled mystery plot, with all its lies and false truths, was kind of fun to behold, but - let's face it - was merely an excuse to present us three long and exquisitely gruesome torture sequences. And besides that, there's even quite a bit of random acts of violence and bloodshed in a couple of other scenes (handgun-splatters, head blown off by shotgun, knife-stabbings, head-bashings,...). The plot itself, is both extremely simplistic but yet still rather unpredictable (or maybe I was just being distracted too much by the excessive amount of torture and gore). Nevermind the weird word "dard" in the title, as its meaning isn't really as profound or mysterious as it might sound, and it even gets explained in an utmost banal, quite stupid and somewhat laughable manner pretty early in the movie.
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of this "torture" genre (not by far), and actually, by now, there's torture movies and there's... torture movies and then some (if you know what I mean). As much as the next guy, I loved the first SAW (I still have to see the other installments though). I can even dig a lot - and I do mean a *lot* - worse movies like Lamberto Bava's THE TORTURER. I also appreciate raw and gritty efforts like Boyes & Mason's BROKEN. But then there's abominable flicks like Ulli Lommel's THE TOMB and I pretty much hated the pretentious and irresponsible MURDER-SET-PIECES. So where exactly do I place Ittenbach's DARD DIVORCE between all this? Hard to say, really, but it's definitely amongst the stuff I can enjoy (granted, not always for the right reasons, like, try: unintentionally funny sometimes).
We've gotten used to the fact that Ittenbach's cinematography & photography at least is above the level of what we regularly get to see in some of these low-budget companion efforts. The man simply has a bit more style than some of his fellow contemporary directors working in the same genre. But right from the moment the first member of the cast starts to speak - no offense Martina Ittenbach - you just can't ignore the fact that you're watching extremely poor acting and hearing lousy dialogues (and yes, this continues until the very end of the movie). During the first 20 minutes or so, Ittenbach even ventures into sheer cringing soap-opera territory, by introducing us a married couple in the middle of a divorce, with all the necessary quibbling over who's gonna get the two kids and all the money and stuff (accompanied by a soft melo-dramatic score even). Plain bad, really, and the two kids (little boy & and a 14-year-old girl) naturally have none acting abilities whatsoever - (luckily they have limited screen time). So yeah, after 20 minutes I already was thinking "Man, I'm gonna flunk this flick severely". But then, the first torture-scene came on. And some more random craziness. And another torture-scene. More shoot-bam-splat-boom mayhem. And another torture-scene. And before I realized it, this movie got me going. Boy, really, those torture-scenes are *nasty*! And Ittenbach's make-up effects are pretty damn excellent at times. One of my favorite gore-bits in the movie was where one guy's lower-jaw gets completely rammed away by a hammer with a couple of firm strokes. Awesome, and I literally uttered "Aw!" in the theater. And the good old needle-in-the-eye trick always gets to me too.
And then we get a couple more of Ittenbach trademarks, like the (inexcusable?) portrayal of full frontal male nudity (sorry, but to me it always looks goofy when a man just undresses - for no apparent reason at first - and then walks naked and ding-donging towards the camera), as well as the mutilation of male genitals ("Ouch!", I went again). In the end, after all the madness, the mystery also neatly gets explained in the most easy (and silly) way possible in a movie, by having a character just explain it. And then there's the little epilogue-scene, et voilà, another Ittenbach effort for the records that somewhat satisfies, but barely passes the test. I'm pretty sure that there's folks that will rate this a lot higher than me, but it's just that I love my Ittenbach flicks more when they're spiced up with a bit of demonic/supernatural stuff. Oh well, one can't always have it his way, right?
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