Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Serbian Film

Srdjan Spasojevic | 2010 | 104 min | Serbia

Serbian Film is the new Necronomicon among horror dorks. I'm sure more total time has been spent tweeting and talking about the movie in hushed tones than has been spent by people actually viewing it. And like everyone who has flipped through the Necronomicon has learned, you can't believe the hype.

Broke and faded porn star Milos is approached by a mysterious wealthy benefactor who offers him scads of money to star in one more film. He is told the film will straddle the gap between obscenity and high art. Milos won't be be given a script, know the course of action, or meet his co-actors beforehand as part of the director's process and pursuit of stark realism. The finished film is to be delivered to a select, private clientele: aficionados of extreme cinema.

The first two thirds of Serbian Film are honestly chilling as Milos finds himself haplessly stumbling through a Lynch-ian porn feature surrounded by a stern men who appear to be mercenaries holding videocameras. Of course, we know exactly the kind of film Milos is going to find himself in. Imagining the lurid horror that surely takes place during the gaps in the narrative creates a jet-black mood in the earlier portions of the film. The entire uncomfortable experience hinges upon our imagination. So when Serbian Film heads to flashback territory and Milos begins walking the audience through those gaps step by step, the chill quickly dissipates. Lurid imagination is replaced with explicit sex and violence.

Serbian Film's claim to internet fame is that it ultimately leaves not a single act to the imagination. But where does that leave viewers after we strap in to passively witness a cataloguing of evil? Well, not quite bored, but certainly not interested. In fact, after all the build up, the reveals of the final act are predictable and often even cheesy. There are some awful, horrifying visuals, definitely, but when a narrative forces you to picture them an hour in advance, the actions on display simply feel like awkward retreads and the punch is reduced to a pat on the head.

Serbian Film is not as brutal as you've heard, but it is certainly sillier than you would expect. Perhaps it's more like Go Ask Alice than the Necronomicon? Serbian Film is far too brutal to appeal to viewers of regular horror fare and too cliched and clumsy for those who regularly wade into heavier horror. I don't know where this will ultimately sit. Maybe recommend it to your mom if she asks for a good starter snuff-gore movie.

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