I watched this film last year for my October marathon and was blown away. If it wasn’t for Erwin Leder, who was the engine guy in Das Boot the year or two before this, I would have thought this was a much newer film than 1983. Das Boot is an old favorite of mine, and he was instantly recognizable. So when I first watched this, I was shocked to see him so young because the camera work feels incredibly modern for it’s time, and that is what has stuck with me the most. I’ve been wanting to revisit this one again and reviewing it for October’s #FearEra is as good excuse as any.
If you need a serial killer film for your October marathon, this one is a perfect fit. The film was directed by Gerald Kargl and from what little I can find is pretty much the only thing he ever did, sadly. As mentioned, Leder stars as our serial killer, but I don’t recognize anyone else in the cast. From what I gather this was banned in a lot of countries back in the day, so it may have tanked a lot of careers that otherwise may have done well. Fortunately, we have the Shudder streaming service which seems to excel in getting banned horror films out for people to watch. Enough foreplay though, let’s get to the main attraction.
Angst starts off with our serial killer walking around carrying a handgun looking for a victim, and right off the bat we have a very unconventional camera movement. If this were made today, I would say the camera is actually on a selfie stick which rotates around our killer’s body, because it seemingly orbits him as he walks around. There’s even a little bounce as he steps. Eventually he finds his victims, knocks on the door, tells the woman he’s going to shoot, then fires a few shots into her. Her husband was nearby, and we see him horrified at what just happened. Our killer heads off only to return later that evening and get arrested.
At this point we get a narrative about our killer. He was a bastard child who grew up killing animals as any good psychopath would. Somewhere along the way, he hooks up with a woman who likes the rough stuff, which he grows to like. As he gets older, the perversions get stronger and lead to full on murder. The authorities listen to his tale of insanity, but think he was a simple home invader. So instead of answering his plea for help, they simply toss him in jail for attempted burglary. We then go to the opening credits and when we return, we’re up to the day he gets released from prison. You already know he’s not going to be rehabilitated and that the rest of this film will be nothing but tragedy.
Our killer gets out of jail with a long take of being escorted out of the jail by a jailer. The camera is pretty low and angled up. Once outside, the camera starts off high looking at the clock on one of the buildings and swings over to look down on our killer. He walks the town narrating his plans. He’s spent the last ten years in prison anticipating another kill. So he decides to go to a coffee shop in order to find a victim. Here we get more high camera shots with some extreme close ups. Art house film making has collided with trashy horror film.
An order of sausage is delivered by a waitress to our killer, who stares at a pair of young women. He fantasizes about them as he stuffs the sausage in his mouth angrily. With additional close ups and his angry eating, you can tell exactly how much he is fantasizing. He is delivering a narrative of his thoughts, but you really don’t need it. The camera work explains it all. Wisely though, he decides a public shop isn’t the best place to commit any kind of crime, so he finishes his meal and heads off.
From here, our killer tries to kill a female cab driver as he recalls an old girlfriend that was into bondage and pain. Except the driver gets suspicious and causes him to run off. Eventually he finds a house to invade, and this is where the story really kicks in full bore.
He stalks around the house a bit to make sure it’s empty, then busts a window. Turns out, there is a handicapped person with some sort of mental issues in a wheel chair living there. The guy’s mother and sister eventually show up, which really pleases our killer. At long last, this is the day he’s been dreaming of. The house is out of the way and surrounded by a wall.
This is the part of the review where I will stop explaining what happens because it’s something you really need to just see. This isn’t one of those fun slasher films. This film is actually pretty serious and pretty dark. I think it encapsulates what horror can do with a well-told story. The camera angles are voyeuristic and the violence, while tame by today’s standards, is brutal and without mercy. It’s pretty easy to see why this was banned back in the day just for the sheer brutality of it all. Then, just when you think it’s all over, the film runs another twenty or thirty minutes. Not only do you get to see what led up to this, you get to see his mental process after the deed, and he narrates his thoughts the whole time.
I wouldn’t say this is a horror film you watch for entertainment. The reason you watch this is to see just how powerful a horror film can be. My theme for last year’s Halloween marathon was serial killers, and this was one of the absolute highlights of the month. It’s one of those films that really leaves a mark. I would liken it to A Clockwork Orange as far as the weird camera angles and insanity that ensues. The two would be good together.
So how do I score this? Last year I tossed a 4/5 stars at it, and I think that is pretty accurate. So that will be my score again on this viewing. This definitely is not a perfect film. I noticed a few camera issues this time around that were a bit wonky, but that doesn’t take anything away from the overall though. My parting thoughts are that this is probably not for the weak or feint of heart. Some of the reviews I’ve read had some people saying this wasn’t violent enough, but I think they miss the point. There is some real darkness here that films like Halloween and Friday the 13th don’t explore.