German Angst is a German (big surprise) anthology written and directed by Jörg Buttgereit , Michal Kosakowski , and Andreas Marschall . Notably, this is the first horror film for Buttgereit, famed director of the highly-controversial Nekromantik, since 1993’s Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer. Kosakowski and Marschall have both had long careers in
the German film industry, but without finding international success. Is German Angst the movie to reignite Buttgereit’s career and make the other two household names? Let’s find out.
The first segment, “Final Girl,” directed by Buttgereit, invokes a familiar connotation. Everyone who knows horror knows what a final girl is, right? She’s the one that lives when everyone around her dies, or at least sticks around long enough to reach the morbid twist where everyone is killed off. This segment takes that idea in a different direction, with a completely dialog-free story whose oppressive silence is only occasionally broken up by a radio broadcast or inner monolog of our protagonist simply known as Girl (Lola Gave). This girl, it seems, has a history of abuse, that we can fairly concretely surmise from the whispers of exposition we’re given and is hiding a dark secret.
This one ended up falling into the hole that a lot of these Final Girl is visually quite striking, and kept we engaged through its sinisterly placid and severe atmosphere. The lack of music or dialog keeps the focus on what vile places this will all go, and when the violence does occur, it is both brutal and restrained. Almost nothing is shown, but the nature of the violence and the effective camera work had me wincing a couple of times at the implication of violence, which is always the mark of a skilled horror director.
I didn’t hate Final Girl, I just didn’t get it. Maybe if you’re able to peel back the layers of symbology here, maybe you’ll find a gem, but I didn’t feel Buttgereit was able to develop his ideas fully enough for this one to really work.
Make a Wish
Make a Wish, directed by Michal Kosakowski, is about a deaf-mute Polish couple living in Germany that decide to wander into an abandoned building (strangle tagged with an ad for Kosakowski’s previous film Zero Killed) while the woman shares a story about how her ancestor used a magical amulet to cause people to change bodies to save a man from the Nazis, before, whaddayaknow, they’re assaulted by a group of Neo-Nazis. Didn’t care for this one much, the setup is contrived for maximum emotional manipulation (deaf-mute Polish people vs. Neo-Nazi thugs? You might as well do puppy vs. hammer) and the characters are all one note.
The couple seems loving enough, but given their situation, they aren’t in a place to communicate effectively or understand what’s going on throughout most of the proceedings and the Neo-nazis are your typical bloodthirsty thugs, with one exception. The girl nazi, Hilda (Martina Schöne-Radunski) is one of the more obnoxious characters I’ve seen in a while, the immaculate offspring of Harley Quinn and Baby of House of 1000 Corpses fame, conceived after a hard night binging on pixie sticks and crystal meth, she makes what would have been a ham-fisted exercise in emotional manipulation into something far less watchable.
The segment is not without its merits, it’s shot well, features some pretty striking brutality, and opens some interesting narrative possibility in terms of how you would deal with suddenly inhabiting the body of your attacker, but with characters that seem written into their archetypes of victim and abuser, it’s hard to care or feel surprised at how it all plays out.
Alraune, directed by Andreas Marschall, follows Voice (Milton Welsh), a man recounting to his lover Maya (Désirée Giorgetti) a strange experience he had during their last breakup. Looking for something to fill the void, he starts talking to women online and agrees to go meet one of them at a bar. Instead of the woman he was supposed to meet, however, he ends up hooking up with Kira (Kristina Kostiv) who leads him down a dark and sensual world where men and women are satisfied and ravaged by forces they mustn’t ever look for fear of some unnamed retribution that will follow if they do.
What follows is an intriguing mystery into just what this club wants and what terrors lurk behind the blindfolds that participants are forced to wear during their kinky S&M sessions, which while not being particularly explicit, manage to straddle the line between Hellraiser and Eyes Wide Shut, classy, but with a foreboding lurking under the surface suggesting something more sinister. The characters are complex and their motivations given just the right amount of ambiguity which the segment builds on well enough that you end up leaving feeling like most of the pieces fit together.
Alraune is the strongest of the three segments, with quality character writing that gave me some level of investment in what happened to them. While the first two lacked either character or cohesion, this one nails them both by presenting a much more stripped-down, some might say conventional, narrative driven by the strength of the character drama.
German Angst, is, as with most anthology films, a mixed bag. Sadly, this bag has a lot of Necco wafers and black licorice you’re going to have to get through to get to the peanut butter cups on the bottom. If you’re looking for a more artsy and cerebral anthology this might be worth a rental, but if you’re just looking to relax and be entertained by a series of diverse horror concepts and styles, there are better options out there.