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This is a grotesque interpretation of a novel apparently inspired by a real-life 1970s serial killer. The film was hated by most critics, particularly in its festival debut, because it was considered too repellent and sensational. Conversely, I suspect mainstream horror fans won't like it because it's not crafted like a suspense film-the kills are presented in a depressing, banal rather than "exciting" way.
It's a tough movie to watch, but for reasons that I think are strengths: You rarely see this kind of bleak underside of life depicted accurately in movies. Even films like "Barfly" that purport to also be about alcoholic Skid Row types generally cast the most glamorous actors possible, and make their characters' poverty, self-destruction etc. look sort of "quirky" and "colorful." Here, even the (very few) attractive characters are presented in the worst 70s clothes and hairstyles (with terrible period German pop music in the background), while most of the figures here are old, ugly and conspicuously unhealthy. (It's kind of amazing afterward to look up the cast on IMBD afterward, and see all their nice, clean publicity photos-you'd swear they emptied out a homeless shelter for many of the roles, rather than using professional actors with long resumes.)
It's an incredibly bleak milieu that is its own answer to the question of why police didn't track down this killer sooner-he, and his victims (also drunks and/or prostitutes), were all people that German society had long ago given up on. No one cared about them, or whether they went missing.
You can fault the film for giving very limited "insight" into the protagonist or why he murdered. But he's clearly just a mentally deficient person just functional enough to support himself, so he did not fall into the hands of authorities that might have diagnosed and treated his considerable problems. The lead's performance is so convincingly repellent that I was stunned to see that he's actually a very handsome, young actor-here his age is indeterminate, and his physical acting/makeup is subtle enough that you really think you're watching a somewhat disabled and disfigured person rather than a clever performer's approximation of one.
Anyway, it's a thoroughly unpleasant movie whose characters are profane in the dumbest and crudest ways, whose sexual acts (when they can perform at all) are depicted with nasty vividness, who live in squalor and die in filth. Which, frankly, is probably a pretty accurate depiction of most serial killers' lives and activities. If watching that reality isn't exactly "entertaining," it's nonetheless pretty compelling if you can take it. I wouldn't want to watch a movie with this brutally misanthropic a vision like this very often, but once in a while, it acts as a sort of palate cleanser to remind you that most violence in real life is ugly and pathetic, not an exciting thrill ride.
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