Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(German with English subtitles)
Directed by: Katrin Gebbe
Written by: Katrin Gebbe
Starring: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl & Swantje Kohlhof
NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN is such an painfully ironic title for this twisted film. I’m stating that right out of the gate. Despite the woefully misleading promise of the title, bad things do happen in this film. I’d argue that downright horrible things happen and they only increase with each passing minute. First-time director/screenwriter Katrin Gebbe creates a complicated tale based on disturbing true events that don’t offer easy answers or comforting reassurance that everything is going to be alright. Abandon all hope ye who watch this film, because it’s among the more emotionally devastating horror movies I’ve seen. I mean this all in a ridiculously positive way!
Tore is a homeless young man and member of a Christian punk group known as the Jesus Freaks. He doesn’t necessarily believe in a specific religion, but rather in living as Jesus would. This means helping his fellow-man, thanking God for every day he’s alive, and turning the other cheek to his enemies. Benno, the father of a white trash family, notices this last quality about Tore and decides to take full advantage of it. Benno invites Tore into his family, allowing him to sleep in a tent outside. It soon becomes apparent that would-be good guy Benno actually has a mean streak. Tore becomes Benno’s newest victim of abuse. Despite being able to leave at any given time, Tore sticks it out as he believes no true harm will come to him as long he prays to God. Sadly, that’s not quite the case here. Things keep going from bad to worse.
On the surface, NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN sounds like the latest in a long line of those dreaded cheap torture-porn movies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen some people make comparisons with NOTHING BAD being along the lines of MARTYRS (a French horror masterpiece from 2009). While it’s obvious to make that comparison in a few aspects, I’d actually relate this film to Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN and the Australian serial killer film SNOWTOWN MURDERS. Benno’s family resembles the central characters in WOMAN to the degree that they seem plain from the onset. As both films move along, more layers are peeled to reveal just how monumentally screwed up these people are and how dire their situation is. The style and tone of NOTHING BAD relates to SNOWTOWN in this film feeling shockingly real and never reveled in depraved acts on-screen. NOTHING BAD rarely shows any blood, but the concepts of what’s happening to poor Tore make for a brutal viewing experience. This is a film that’s very hard to watch at points from the sheer nastiness of the content.
The actors all kill it in their roles. Julius Feldmeier is a protagonist worth rooting for in Tore. Sascha Alexander Gersak is frightening as the ever-sadistic Benno. Finally, there’s a standout performance by Swantje Kohlhof as Benno’s sympathetic teenage daughter. If I have any problems with NOTHING BAD, it’s that the film can veer into disturbing territory purely for the sake of being disturbing. It’s not as if this dominates the movie, but there were a couple of moments where I thought it was stretching plausibility. Also, some characters don’t necessarily make the wisest of decisions. In their defense though, this situation was never really normal to begin with so there can be a few excuses made to cut them some slack.
The best quality in NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN is how it will affect different people in vastly different ways. If you are a believer, you might understandably see Tore as a Christ-like figure in some respects and that’s a valid viewpoint. If you are an all-out atheist (a category I fall into), you might see it as a disturbing true-crime story pushed to the limits of human darkness. A few things are for certain though. NOTHING BAD is not a fun watch, nor is it entertaining or easy. This shouldn’t be a film you stick in on a whim. It’s definitely a movie you’re going to have to be in the mood for. This is a challenging conversation starter (for better or worse) that’s bound to haunt you for days. Also that title is painfully ironic, because plenty of bad things happen in NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN. This is a must-see for those who think they can handle it.