THE DEVIL OF KREUZBERG
Color, 2015, 41 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Alex Bakshaev
Starring Ross Indecency, Sandra Bourdonnec, Suleyman Yuceer, Miguel Sepreny, Sanrt Utamachot
S&M: LES SADIQUES
Color, 2016, 70m47s
Directed by Alex Bakshaev
Starring Nadine Pape, Sandra Bourdonnec, Kevin Kopacka, Mimi Robin, Nikolau Sternfeld, Harry Baer, Nastasia Beausejour, Jennifer Balk, Bang Viet Pham
Carnie Film Production (DVD) (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
The ever increasing affection for and influence of classic European horror films from the '60s and '70s has influenced a lot of filmmakers in recent years, resulting in everything from subtle homage to clumsy pastiche. That aesthetic definitely found a fertile home in the mind of filmmaker and critic Alex Bakshaev of Trash Film Addict, whose passion for all things Eurocult has translated into a handful of German short films and two longer works that more or less qualify as feature films, one a supernatural horror outing and the other something a bit more transgressive.
Made in 2015, The Devil of Kreuzberg is the more straightforward of the pair and a love letter to the wave of macabre and poetic films from France, Italy and Great Britain that proliferated in cinemas throughout the 1970s. Rising young writer Jakob ("Ross Indecency," one of the greatest stage names ever) isn't a terribly happy guy despite the fact that his latest book is selling well, and he finds rare comfort in the arms of his red cloak-wearing girlfriend, Linda Karnstein (Bourdonnec). He's also best friends with the scruffy Kurt (Yuceer), a conflicted killer for hire who's thinking about going into another line of work -- but Jakob has one final request before Kurt hangs up his hat. It's all tied to nightmares Jakob has been having about Linda as a kind of murderous sexual monster, and he thinks the only way to rid himself of his night terrors is to get rid of her. However, as you can probably tell by her last name, she has a little family secret that's going to make that trickier than anticipated after the ghost of her mother tells her during a graveyard visit that she's doomed to kill Jakob.
Though the subject matter might sound like a fairly straightforward modern Gothic horror film, The Devil of Kreuzberg dodges expectations with its very effective electronic soundtrack, atmospheric urban but elegant settings, and clear appreciation for classic Euro horror with a nice multicultural spin here. Bourdonnec is especially memorable with her fondness for hoods and capes calling back nicely to Hammer Films and Jean Rollin, an influence that extends to the dark city streets and graveyards.
The self-released DVD of Devil features a good encoding of the digitally shot feature, which would probably sparkle more in HD but works just fine here. Optional English subtitles are provided for the German 2.0 stereo track. Extras include three minor deleted scenes, the German and English trailers, a bonus trailer for Zombie 2024, a 6m46s making-of featurette (in English) with interviews with the primary cast and crew, a video review of the film from The Final Cut, and two surreal bonus Bakshaev short films, "Bittersweet" (2007, 25m2s) and the B&W Jess Franco homage "Crash Zoom" (2008, 37m25s).
Speaking of Jess Franco, Bakshaev's second long-form film still has a few flickers of Rollin but is much more openly a tribute to dear Jess, even noting in its press material that it used the same German locations as Eugenie De Sade. The title alone should give you an idea of what to expect, though the Sadiques part is much more prevalent than the S&M, which only really figures in the middle third.
After a long nocturnal train trip to visit an outdoor memorial shrine to David Bowie, wandering college dropout Marie (Pape) finds herself without a place to crash when her friend rescinds his place for the night due to a new boyfriend. Irate, Marie goes to hit a local watering hole and finds a couch for the night with bartender Tom (Sternfeld), who expects some sexual favors in return. On the run again, she unsuccessfully seeks shelter with her alcoholic Uncle Franz (Fassbinder regular Baer) and, while trying to sleep in a stairwell, attracts the attention of mysterious and magnetic Sandra (Bourdonnec again). The two end up snuggling together for the night and become a couple, though it becomes clear that Sandra's interest in extreme sex and domination is going to have an effect on Marie. A sapphic nightclub performance and an ill-fated S&M session with a guy chained to a chair are just a prelude for what will become a violent love triangle when Marie also takes up with performance art singer Corrado (Kopacka), which is not fated to end well.
Though his first film didn't feature any nudity, this one more than makes up for it with a lot of bare flesh (though not much in the way of actual sex) shot through with the kind of dreamy, nonchalant tone Franco fans will quickly recognize. Once again Bourdonnec is the real secret weapon here, channeling a kind of mixture of Alice Arno and Soledad Miranda into her predatory alpha female and making you wish she had even more screen time. The other actors are all perfectly fine (and a couple of them are pretty brave in the last stretch), but hers is the role you remember. As with the other film, the open enigmatic ending may leave some viewers puzzled but definitely winds things up on a haunting note that works quite well the more you let it digest. Again the DVD transfer looks perfectly good for a fairly low-budget digital production and does a good job of showing off the various scenic locations, mostly shot at night. Optional English or Spanish subtitles are offered, and the sole extra is a batch of trailers for this film, Devil, and Kopacka's Dylan.
Reviewed on June 17, 2017.