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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 08.04.09] movie review thriller mystery

Year: 2009
Directors: Esther Gronenborn
Writers: Christian Limmer & Sönke Lars Neuwöhner
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Hal MacDermot
Rating: 7.8 out of 10

A lonely forest at twilight, the haunting sound of a piano, a young girl walks alone, she looks back perhaps to see if she’s being followed. Will she find a wolf? No, but she will find a farmhouse full of dead bodies with their heads smashed in. Kaifeck Murder is a beautifully shot horror/thriller/fairy tale with fine performances from Benno Fürmann (Jerichow, Mutant Chronicles) and Alexandra Maria Lara, (Control & Youth Without Youth). The film draws inspiration from the true life unsolved murder of 6 people in small German village back in 1922. This is a story of superstition and community in the vein of the original Wicker Man, or even Neil Jordan’s gothic horror fairy tale “The Company of Wolves.” Don’t expect a slash fest, but do expect an excellent and thoughtful movie.

In the present day, photographer Marc (Benno Fürmann ) is on an assignment to cover Bavarian folk traditions. He’s brought his little boy Tyll along for the ride. Not surprisingly, Tyll’s bored stiff, but don’t worry that doesn’t last. As it gets dark, they come across a small, remote village, Kaifeck, where time seems to have stood still, no motels, no chain stores. Juliana (Alexandra Maria Lara) gives them accommodation in her converted barn and Marc decides that they will stay in the village so that he can photograph the annual Epiphany carnival. As Juliana explains, in this neck of the woods the 12 days of Christmas are a dangerous time, a time when the evil spirits, called Perchta, invade the Earth. To scare the bad spirits away the villagers leave sweets out at night, and more worryingly, dress up as pagan horned violent monsters. That night, Marc’s dreams are disturbed by visions of a decaying farm house which seems to call to him. He sees flashes of a bloody massacre. Everything seems strangely familiar, including the graveyard, and when he wakes up… there’s mud on his shoes. Marc learns that he’s dreaming of murders that took place decades ago. He starts to ask questions about the mysterious crime, but soon learns that the village would rather keep the truth buried.

The German title for this movie is Hinter Kaifeck, which means “behind Kaifeck” and really this is a story about what lies behind the apparently peaceful surface. It’s a world where mist drifts and dreams invade reality. A forgotten place where the link between folk tradition, good and evil is still as powerful as ever and tourists with cameras should beware. Kaifeck Murder is a film of the old school, like Rosemary’s Baby, in that takes its cues from psychology and slow build rather than tons of special effects. Not that I mind SFX and blood fountains, I’m just saying. A good example would be when Tyll falls down a well and discovers a piece of bone. Tyll’s Dad pulls him out and we wonder whether the bone belongs to a pig or a human, and the creepy village doctor is just a little too keen to take it away from Marc, supposedly for forensics. Compare that to the immediate impact of an in-your-face horror moment, like the excellent “well scene” in the Ring when Sarah’s being chased by something very very scary. Both powerful scenes, both very different approaches to horror and fear. And on that cheerful note, it remains only for me to supply you this link to photos of the gruesome 1922 crime scene.

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