Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Directed by: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Written by: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Starring: Dov Glickman, Dvir Benedek, Guy Adler, Lior Ashkenazi, Menashe Noy, Rotem Keinan
Big Bad Wolves (2013)
(18) Running time: 110 minutes
Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Writers: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Cast: Guy Adler, Lior Ashkenazi, Dvir Benedek, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy, Rotem Keinan
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado put Israeli horror on the map in 2011 with Rabies (Kalavet). The film made its UK debut at FrightFest that year, and became the most requested film ever in the festivals history, prompting a much needed repeat performance. The directors and writers were invited back to FrightFest in 2013, and asked if they could top the brilliance of Rabies, and they delivered Big Bad Wolves, a stunning piece of cinema.
There was a buzz surrounding this film right from the beginning of the festival, and for good reason too! Not only was it tipped to be the best film of the festival, but it was also to be the last film ever screened in Leicester Square’s Empire Cinema screen 1, the largest cinema screen in the UK. This mighty screen had been the home of FrightFest for a number of years, and it is a sad thing to see it go. However, all good things must come to an end, and screen 1 bowed out in epic style with the amazing Big Bad Wolves, a unique, dark, funny and very violent slice of horror that breaks all the rules, and toys with the viewers sense of right and wrong.
With the volume turned up to maximum (and seriously damaging my hearing!), Big Bad Wolves began with a slow-mo shot of some kids playing, and then the camera pans back to reveal the film’s title in the roof of a house. Thunderous music plays, and already I experienced a sense of being in the company of greatness. The film then begins and we see a man who has been captured by police and accused of molesting and murdering local children, and the angry police decide to torture the man in an abandoned warehouse, not knowing that the entire event is being filmed by a passerby. This leads to the suspect being let go, and pretty much becomes untouchable pending an investigation. The officer in charge of the investigation into the killer has been suspended, yet feels he cannot let the suspect get away. He begins to follow him, not knowing that someone else is also following the suspected killer.
It is the Father of one of the girls who has gone missing, and he wants to know where the suspect has buried his daughters head (the killer saws off the head of his victims with a rusty blade), and so he leaves his wife and buys a secluded house in the country not far from some Palestinian villages (there are lots of Israeli/ Palestinian un-PC jokes in here). During his viewing with the estate agent, he asks her to go in the basement and scream as loud as she can so he can test how good the sound proofing is. Naturally the estate agent is concerned, until he tells her it is for his son who plays the drums, but we know it is not. He intends to bring the suspected serial killer to his new home, tie him up in the basement and torture him. What he didn’t count on was the detective on suspension already kidnapping the killer and taking him to some nearby woods, and getting him to dig a hole so he can bury him. Not wanting his own justice interfered with, the Father knocks out both men, ties them both up and takes them both to his basement, and once there the film takes on a much darker, much more violent approach and we also head into some seriously black humour.
Right from the get go, Big Bad Wolves makes no excuse for its comedy, and the jokes and witty dialogue come thick and fast, and never let up. It sounds weird saying it, but the film is laugh out loud funny from beginning to end, although you will find yourself asking if what you are laughing at is morally acceptable. When the torture begins, it is hard to stomach, but the filmmakers follow violence with nasty comedy, and when Father and detective begin arguing over who breaks the first set of fingers, you will fully understand the level brilliance and depravity this film intends take you. A coin toss to decide who begins the torture should be horrifying, and it is, until the coin is dropped, rolls across the floor and the two justice seekers scramble on their knees looking for it. The good cop, bad cop routine is used to hilarious effect because, essentially, this is bad cop bad cop, and all the while the killer sits in his chair, terrified and hoping the torture will be over soon. We are still questioning whether they have the right man, and there will be times when the brutality may get too much and the filmmakers cleverly ask you to feel sorry for him!
The filmmakers have created three excellent central characters whom as an audience, you will really connect with. The suspected killer and his almost pathetic face will have you questioning whether he really is the killer, the detective hell bent on catching his man but having doubts, and the Father driven mad with rage, a man whom you totally feel his pain, but you’ll also come to realise is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. The films plot doesn’t really go much deeper than a simple story of torture involving three central characters, but it doesn’t need to. Big Bad Wolves is just fine the way it is.
However, other weird and wonderful characters are introduced: there is the bizarre Palestinian man who wonders around the woods on a horse, and then there is the Fathers Dad who turns up after a bizarre phone conversation with Mother has the Father backed into a corner about leaving his wife. He makes up a story about being ill, and so his Mother makes him some soup and sends Dad over to look after him. It may sound a little silly on paper, but believe me the cinema was roaring with laughter. When the Dad arrives, things get even funnier as we witness a man willing to torture someone with a blow torch, but lie to his wife about his smoking habit. The script, set up and characters here are simply genius, and the whole creation feels like a cross between the Coens at their darkest and funniest, mixed with a touch of Tarantino and a little of David Lynch thrown in for good measure.
Big Bad Wolves is, simply put, a masterpiece of creative cinema, and running at almost two hours and with such a basic premise, it never once drags or out stays its welcome. This is masterful storytelling, with actors giving their all to give the viewer something to really get involved with as we try and guess the mystery for ourselves. The film journey’s into some seriously dark and shockingly violent territories, but the stunning, fast paced script never strays from working its magic and really driving the film. Big Bad Wolves is like a classic Tarantino scene stretched to two hours, it is so good it is like a dream come true. It is almost impossible to explain quite how good this film is, and my advice is just see the damn thing when it becomes available. This is filmmaking of another order entirely, of a quality rarely seen in horror, and it is also a film that will leave you shaken come the final moments. Big Bad Wolves will get inside your head and stay there, and is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. The easiest way to describe Big Bad Wolves is that it is a film that is so good it hurts!