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Murder Slim Review: ANGST

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ANGST is a thoroughly unpleasant film. But don't let that put you off. A movie about a fucked-up serial killer should feel that way. It's testament to the skill of the filmmaking and the acting that a movie gets under your skin. Too many so-called shockers fail in that regard. The most obvious example is SAW, with its stupid, hyperactive editing and its ridiculous killer. ANGST feels as real as this type of movie can get.

It starts with the nameless psychopath holed up in prison, aware of his own sadistic thoughts but hiding them from the prison's psychologists. When they try to psychoanalyse him, he just says he dreams about flowers. I guess the Austrian legal system is more trusting than other countries, because they let the guy out again after almost stabbing his mother to death (four-year sentence) and then killing a 70-year-old (ten-year sentence).

Within an hour of release, he's gnawing on a sausage in a cafe (via some disgusting extreme close-ups) and leering at some women, wondering how he's going to kill them. But he's sane enough to know he can't get away with it, so he gets out of the place.

It's only a brief delay. Soon the psychopath is in a taxi with a female driver. She reminds him of an ex-girlfriend who used to love being abused. He starts to unlace his shoes, readying to strangle her. But, again, that plan goes tits-up and he has to run into the woods, frustrated and desperate to kill. He breaks into what he thinks is a deserted house... until a disabled man wheels up to him and calls him "Papa". Then that guy's sister and elderly mother show up too. The psychopath soon decides it's time to play out his murderous fantasies.

ANGST is often compared to HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER... another troubling but excellent serial killer movie. ANGST lacks the depth of style that HENRY has, which is brilliantly acted and directed with a bunch of memorable moments. But ANGST has a number of unique things going for it. The handheld shots are incredibly smooth and dreamlike, hovering in front of the killer's frantic face. It reminded me of the odd Eastern European style of THE CREMATOR, another very creepy killer flick. The camera must be on some movable scaffold attached to the actor, either that or the camera operator was extremely light of their feet.

The deaths in ANGST are also brutal, nasty, and (save for blood spurting on the killer's face from the wrong angle) uncomfortably real. There's also interesting artistic touches, one of which is the family's pet dachshund. The dog's reaction to events is shown a lot, working in the mutt as a character. He looks curiously at the killer a lot, tries to bite him as he kills the girl, and eventually ends up as the killer's companion.

It's surprising that Kargl has no other credits other than a small documentary. I guess ANGST isn't the sort of movie that will ingratiate you to film producers. But it's a shame ANGST isn't better known. Apparently it was a big influence on Gaspar Noe (IRREVERSIBLE, I STAND ALONE), but I prefer ANGST. It doesn't revel in shocks so much as to desensitise you to them. The shocking moments work in ANGST because they're largely unpredictable.

I'd put ANGST almost up there with HENRY and BRONSON in its ability to get inside the mind of a maniac. ANGST is actually even "smaller" than HENRY and BRONSON, with the interesting spin that the constant narration gives added insight. ANGST is almost exclusively from the killer's point of view, even when the camera shoots from other angles. And the narration is pitched correctly enough that you feel a slight element of sympathy for the psychopath's lousy upbringing, while still being repulsed by his actions.

In fact, the whole movie is pitched at the right levels. The dark humour isn't overstated, the pace is fluid, and it's neatly structured with a great ending. The DVD of ANGST is out in Germany, but I don't think it comes with English subtitles. So - if you're in the mood for a harsh yet eye-opening slice of horror - find a way to download the subtitled ANGST and check it out.

Review by Steve Hussy