Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Hebrew with English subtitles)
Directed by: Navot Papushado & Aharon Keshales
Written by: Navot Papushado & Aharon Keshales
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy & Dvir Bendek
Back in 2011, a little Israeli horror flick was hitting the festival circuit to a massive amount of praise. This was the unconventional slasher film, RABIES, which I found to be more a flawed dark comedy than anything. BIG BAD WOLVES is the next film from the creators of that piece of work. Consider it a massive step above in every single aspect. The film is beautiful to look at, the music is haunting, the acting is downright incredible, and has an absolutely diabolical screenplay. Taking in a wide variety of emotions, BIG BAD WOLVES ultimately winds up being one of the most disturbing thrillers in years.
A series of particularly grisly child murders are taking place. A rough-around-the-edges detective (named Miki) finds himself out of a job due to letting the potential suspect (named Dror) get off without a shred of evidence to follow up on. Miki takes it upon himself to stalk Dror at every turn waiting for an opportunity to pounce and unleash a brutal form of interrogation. He’s not the only one lying in wait for Dror though. Gidi, the latest victim’s father, is also looking to question his daughter’s killer and exact a gory revenge. Through a twist of fate, Miki and Gidi sort of team up (if you can describe it that way) to viciously interrogate a captive Dror. However, it seems that they might be mistaken in if he’s actually a pedophile serial killer to begin with and other complications begin springing upon the pair…
For a movie about such dark subject matter, directors/writers Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales inject a crazy amount of pitch-black humor through their increasingly complicated situation. The film is also just plain stunning to look at in visuals. There’s nothing of special effects grandiose, besides some rather nasty looking gore, but the settings just seem to come alive as the viewer is watching the film. As far as the characters themselves are concerned, everyone is very well-done. The history of each person is wisely given naturally and doesn’t resort to exposition or flashbacks. Even Dror, who seems like such a repugnant character at first, garners some real sympathy from the viewer in giving us reasons to doubt that he committed said acts.
Then there’s the writing itself which is nothing short of cinematic perfection. The first hour has an exciting opening and a steady build towards the certainty of where this is all heading that’s done in such a cool way, getting the viewer invested in seeing how this will all play out. Once the actual interrogation began, the film could have just become a torture-porn revenge thriller. Just like the ones that we’ve seen play out countless times in many different levels of quality. Even then, BIG BAD WOLVES keeps the viewer on the edge wondering where things will head next and how it will all turn out. Suffice to say that not everyone makes it out alive or morally unscathed. The final 20 minutes deliver emotionally devastating revelations that change the meaning of certain scenes significantly.
This isn’t a film built around one big twist, but instead about how escalating events play out and the notion that the truth is something that may be better left in the dark. The final shot of BIG BAD WOLVES is a gasp-inducing haunting one. The kind of icing on the cake that could ensure the nightmares of many parents. The dialogue can go into humorous territory, but it never detracts from how sinister and just plain twisted this entire piece of cinema is. Sometimes the scariest stories are the ones without supernatural beings, but instead focus on the very real human monsters that exist. BIG BAD WOLVES is a bleak, disturbing, sometimes funny, always clever, but wholly horrifying film. Consider this a must-see for those who think they can handle it!