Monday, 9 September 2013

5 German Horror Movies

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

Lately, some of the most violent and captivating horror films I've seen have been from Germany.  Movies like Schramm, Angst and Nekromantik are filled with so much anger and depravity, that it's funny to think that they come from the same place that created some of gorgeous silent horrors like The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and Nosferatu.  So, I thought I'd see what other films Germany had to offer.  

Here are 5 German Horror movies

5. Violent Shit (1989) - A little boy named Karl comes home from playing with his ball in the woods and kills his mother.  Twenty years later, Karl lives in the woods and violently kills people who enter the vicinity. That's pretty much it.
  This movie is really loooow budget, apparently it cost 2,000 dollars and took about 4 weekends to shoot this with his friends as the actors.  The script is terrible and the idea that he just kills people in the woods and hasn't been caught is kind of idiotic.  However what it lacks in story, it certainly makes up in gore.  Director Andreas Schaas puts together some of the most disgusting human butchery that I've seen in a while.  And sure it may look fake at times, but his effects team did a great job with the time and money that they had.  This movie will gross you out and make you laugh, you need to see the devil it's hilarious, at the absurdity of it all.  There wasn't a trailer, so here's a clip.

4. The Golem (aka Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) (1920) - Sometime in 16th century Prague, Rabbi Loew using astrology predicts that his people will be in a lot of trouble soon.  So, he with the help from his assistant, Famulus, Rabbi Loew starts building a Golem out of clay to use as protection.
  The next day a messenger, Florian arrives in the Jewish ghetto with a message from the Holy Roman Emperor and delivers it to the elders of the community, including Rabbi Loew.  The note reads that the emperor doesn't like all the black magic the Jews have been dealing with lately and would like them to leave.  Everyone panics but Rabbi Loew sends a message back asking for an audience with the emperor.  Then Loewe and Famulus return to Rabbi Loew's work area and using black magic they bring their Golem to life.  After the monster comes to life and does some boring chores like, chopping wood and picking things up at the market, Rabbi Loew knows that this beast is ready to take on the Roman empire.  Can Rabbi Loewe finally stop the persecution of this people through dialogue with the emporer or will he have to bring in the muscle with his horrible Golem?
  This was Paul Wegener's third attempt at a Golem film, after directing two shorts previous to this film.  He ended up playing the Golem and co-directing the film with Carl Boese and I think together they did a fantastic job.  There are some cool effects (for 1920) and hats off to Wegener because the Golem costume did not look comfortable.  There is only one truly violent scene but it's an interesting creature concept.  If you like silent horror or something a little different, you may dig this.   

3. The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) - Count Regula has been found guilty in the torture and murder of 12 virgins.  The judge feels that the usual beheading is too good for this horrible man, so he is sentenced to be drawn and quartered.  Count Regula tells the judge that everyone will pay for killing him and he will come back from the dead, and blah blah blah, so the judge puts on the happy masks full of spikes on Regula's face to shut him up.  Then they drag Regula to the court yard and the horses pull him apart.
  Thirty-Five years later, adult orphan Roger Mont Elise receives an invitation to the castle of Count Regula to learn more about Roger's mysterious past.  When he arrives in a small village to ask for directions, no one seems to have heard of this castle and the ones who have heard of it won't speak to him.  Except for a strange priest named Fabian, who offers to give Roger directions in lieu of a lift to an inn close by.  Shortly, after they find the inn that Fabian was going to has been burned to the ground and Roger feeling bad, invites him to come along until they find someone riding back to town.
  As they continue their journey, they come across two maidens in distress and rescue them.  As luck would have it, Baroness Lilian von Brabant and her maid, Babette were going to the same place.  Lilian received a letter about collecting an inheritance from the castle of Count Regula.  The continue the journey for a loooooooooooong time and are ambushed again, this time they are kidnapped and brought to the evil castle of Count Regula! umm okay.  But they are now prisoners! Instead of them just coming freely like the were in the first place.  Will Roger and Lilian ever discover the secrets of their heritage and live to tell about it or has Count Regula come back from the grave and needs them to complete his evil curse!
  Christopher Lee stars in this as the evil, Count Regula but you don't really see that much of him which is kind of disappointing but when he does show up it's very good.  Loosely based on a story from Edgar Allan Poe, director Harald Raini seems to have taken his cue from the Corman/Hammer films on the look of the picture.  Very gothic and nice looking sets.  However, I wish they had spent more time in the torture chamber instead of on the road going to the castle.  For a film that's an hour twenty something, they only spend maybe 20 minutes in the castle.  There are only a couple of deaths and one character just disappears for a while for no reason.  Don't get me wrong, that's what makes this movie enjoyable and fun.  Dr. Sadism shouldn't be taken so seriously and like most of Corman films with a little laughter and levity.  If you like Hammer's gothic look and the goofy B-movieness of Corman style than you should enjoy this. 

2. Anatomie (2000) - Paula Henning, a top notch medical student has won a chance to study for the summer at the prestigious, University of Heidelberg Medical School.  So she packs her bags and jumps on the last train to Heidelberg, where she meets up with her gorgeous slutty classmate, Gretchen.  Gretchen tells her that she has also been accepted to Heidelberg for the summer and suggests that they room together.  Reluctantly, Paula agrees to and they have a nice train trip, until a young man almost dies on the train.  Luckily, Paula gets to him in time and saves his life.  He thanks her and tells her and Gretchen that his name is David and he has a rare disease and he is meeting someone in Heidelberg that wants to study him.  So they wish each other well and part ways when they get to Heidelberg.
  Once at Heidelberg, Paula gets into best student mode and quickly becomes the teachers pet.  However shortly after her arrival, her friend David shows up at Heidelberg, on her dissection table.  Through examination of his body, she realizes that foul play is a foot and she starts looking into the school's history.  She discovers a secret society, the Anti-Hippocratic Society, who are okay with experimenting on live people to further their scientific study.  Unfortunately, once the society discovers she's on to them, Paula is now a target.  Can Paula survive and finish her summer study or is this student going to end up on the slab for dissection.
  This was pretty good.  Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, Creep) does a good job playing Paula, even with the worst hair cut ever.  I think she when with the Golem style.  Director Stefan Ruzowitzky (Deadfall, The Counterfeitors) spins an interesting web of intrigue with the secret society element.  This film leans closer to a thriller more than a horror but that's ok because there are some terrific gory scenes.  Maybe not as horrifying as say in Hostel or Saw but still pretty graphic and enjoyable.  If your looking for a medical thriller, this may be what the doctor ordered.

1. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) - Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania by Renfield to close a deal with Count Dracula on the purchase of a home back in Wismar.  Jonathan kisses his wife Lucy goodbye and promises to write ever day.  When he gets to a small inn close to Dracula's castle, he finds out the locals are terrified of Dracula and no one will give him a lift to the castle.  Harker ends up walking to the castle and when he arrives, he discovers that Dracula is one strange guy.  Ends up that Dracula is a vampire! Whaaaaaat? And he starts feeding on Jonathan, while preparing to move to his new place.  He eventually, imprisons Jonathan and leaves for his new home across the street from Lucy.  Can Jonathan escape and put this bloodsucker down or is his home town doomed to be consumed by the voracious appetite of one terrible creature of the night? 
  Director Werner Herzog does a really amazing job retelling this classic story.  He strips down the Dracula character of his style and grace that Lugosi and Lee created for him and brings the monster back to the horrific monster that director Murnau introduced us to.  **Spoiler** Also, he turns Lucy from a victim into a the heroine and she is the one that must save her husband and convince Van Helsing that Dracula is not human but an evil creature. **EndSpoiler** Finally, the look of film is gorgeous and some the shots are absolutely fantastic and terrifying.
  Klaus Kinski (Creature, Schizoid) is an excellent as Count Dracula and he excels at being creepy looking, almost topping Max Schreck.  Isabelle Adjani (The Tenant, Ishtar) is outstanding as Lucy Harker and so is Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, Downfall) as Jonathan.  There isn't a lot of gore but I think this has the largest body count I've every seen in a Dracula movie.  I really enjoyed the ending and it's a nice final twist on a classic story. (There were actually 3 Dracula films released in 1979, including the Frank Langella film)  If you want to see a different kind of Dracula, this is a great choice!

Over the last 30 years, there have been more and more horror movies coming from Germany.  These are just a small drop in the stein of a rich and dark horror legacy.  It's nice to see that they are still pushing the boundaries of fear and I can't wait to see more films in the future.  So grab a pint and plate of schnitzel and dig into these terrifying films.

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