Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Man Bites Dog

Hot on the heels of Calvaire, here’s another French horror movie that I also really enjoyed. For those happy few of you that saw Behind the Mask, here’s another movie about a serial killer who’s got a documentary crew filming him, and it’s every bit as good as its spiritual successor.

A large part of what makes Man Bites Dog so entertaining is how it inverts a good deal of horror cliches. The idea of the sadistic killer as wise philosopher is something that predates film by quite a bit, for instance, and it’s nice that here, right when you think the film’s going to fall totally into that cliché, he begins undercutting himself mid-philosophizing by going off on mad racist rants or hinting at (though never confirming) a strong pedophilic streak within him.

Another nice bit is how the camera actually doesn’t catch everything. Much like in a real-life documentary, key bits of the plot aren’t caught on film, and we have to awkwardly find out about them in voice over after the fact. The film crew is not an all-seeing eye in this film. Indeed, the film crew gets a bit involved in the story here. While the crew in Behind the Mask mostly just follows him around filming (until the big climax, at least), here, after some initial fears around him, they begin to take to their subject well enough that they become active participants in his crimes, at one point even joining in and gang raping a woman with him. In a nice bit of editing, we jump directly from everyone laughing and cheering on Benoit (the killer’s name, in an interesting bit of foresight) as he rapes the woman to the aftermath, where the woman and her husband are lying there dead while Benoit and the crew sleep off their excitement.

Yes, this film is filled with fairly unlikable people, and they do not arrive at a happy ending, so if you’re looking for something a bit more lighthearted then Behind the Mask would probably work better for you. However, if you’re in the mood for something dark and grim, that’s not afraid to take its story to a pretty nasty extreme, then by all means check this one out.

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