Their names may not be familiar to many cinephiles but when Quentin Tarantino endorses your film as his favourite film of 2013 people will sit up and take notice.With his stamp of approval, you can automatically guess what world you are stepping into in Aarhon Keshales and Narot Papushado‘s Big Bad Wolves (2013). A darkly satirical twisted tale of revenge in the blackest comedic way.
Big Bad Wolves is an unrelenting chiller set in Israel which opens with a group young kids doing what kids do best, play. They are playing a game of Hide ‘n’ Seek tragically one girl was not found she went missing only to be found murdered tied to a chair. Detective Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) whose in charge of hunting down the culprit of these grizzly child murders but once again after a promise to his chief he would capture the killer before they strike again, he now finds himself demoted to a desk job for his failures.It seems the police do have a culprit Dror (Rotem Keinan) a religious studies teacher who due to the accusations now suspended from his job. Micki frustrated and even more determined to get his man he puts Dror under surveillance he decides he will deliver his own brand of vigilante justice and captures him. Just as he gets his hands on Dror both men find themselves captured and locked in a dark basement cellar thanks to Gidi (Tzahi Grad) a grieving father who also wants retribution for his Child’s death. He will unleash his own brand of vengeance on Dror as well as anyone who steps in his path.
Big Bad Wolves is the follow-up movie from the duo that brought us the 2011 Film4 Frightfest hit Rabies which had the unique label of been Israel’s first horror feature. This time, the film’s tone is just as dark but with a big leaning towards the Asian dark revenge thrillers like I Saw The Devil instead of the slasher sub-genre of their first film. The tone is the key core of the film, rapidly changing scene by scene keeping the film fresh, intriguing never losing its dark edge.
When Gidi says ‘Maniacs are afraid of maniacs, not guns’ it sets everything up nicely in regards to the characters in Big Bad Wolves as well as how far they would go when it comes to torture. At no one time do you feel sympathetic or do you despise just Dror, like the tone your mood or allegiances change which is a good thing as it keeps you wanting to hang on and watch the film to the end?Ironically in Israel, National Service in the army is still alive and well which suggests this film everybody is an expert at torturing someone. A society that has been built on the fear of terrorism , craves dehumanisation, retribution and vengeance. Essentially it’s a metaphor for Israel’s ‘relationship’ with its non-Jewish neighbours.
Having the house they torture Dror been in an Arab land further backs the idea that Israel assumes torturing someone in this part of the country they won’t care as it’s a common occurrence only a fear of reprisals if they do talk. The Arab man on horseback may who wonder into a scene who has a hunch that something is going on, it’s a scene you may feel irrelevant but politically logical.
On first impressions, you may think Big Bad Wolves maybe another Prisoners clone, however, some may have hoped Denis Villeneuve’s film would have digressed in the same direction. The twists and turns are pure Hitchcockian-esque but directed by The Coen Brothers, no sympathy or empathy for any characters but from start to finish thanks to zapping dogs, failed captures and attempts to beat a confession out of our lead suspect (one with a telephone directory), Big Bad Wolves is surrounded by outrageously inappropriate black humour. It keeps the film falling into a tasteless banality territory especially as child murder or even rape is no laughing matter if anything a sensitive subject after the recent high profile cases.
Big Bad Wolves does delve head first into a horrific subject matter but thankfully the film focus on those accused and those seek retribution. Dark, twisted very intense movie that will make yourself question why Big Bad Wolves is a simple but violent film but could also be funny too. Whatever you think never accept a slice of cake from a strange man who has revenge, just enjoy one of the best acerbic films in the horror thriller genre today.
★★★★☆ Paul Devine
Crime, Thriller, Comedy, World Cinema | Isreali, 2014 | 18 | Metrodome Distribution |28th April 2014 (UK) | Dir.Aarhon Keshales , Narot Papushado |Tzahi Grad, Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan | Buy:Big Bad Wolves [DVD]
Originally posted at Cinehouse | 28th April 2014