I had heard about "Man Bites Dog" before, and I couldn't help but notice it was eerily similar to one of my favorite horror movies, "Behind the Mask: Rise of Leslie Vernon," except it was older, so it was more the other way around. Anyway, I finally got around to watching it, and I have one thing to say.
Seriously, ow, this movie does the experience equivalent of kneeing you in the solar plexus before kicking you in the face. It's not hard to watch because of merciless camera or editing work, it's not hard to watch because of shaky camera or uncomortable lighting. No, Man Bites Dog is just plain merciless.
The story follows Ben, a serial killer, as he is followed by a camera crew documenting his murderous exploits. The gang get involved with rival serial killer and various other murders that the camera crew takes part in or otherwise assists.
Unsurprisingly, murders is a rather big part of the movie, but the way they're played makes them way more disturbing than any Hollywood kill I've ever seen. Somewhat more surprisingly, the thing that's the most disturbing about it all is that so little time is actually spent on showing the murders. Most of the time, Ben is chatting idly about this and that, before a brief kill or two is shown, and this makes it increasingly unbearable to watch. Why doesn't this dude talk more about what he does? Is he, and the film crew, assuming we understand? Is he uninterested in being understood? Is there even something to understand?
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of graphic violence too. Cracking of necks, brutal beatings, strangulation, more gunshots than you can shake a colt at, each and every one of these has certain elements of unplesantness to them, but the really disturbing part usually comes from the reaction to the violence. For example, in a late scene, there is a party. Everything goes typically partylike before wham, Ben kills one of his guests, and the rest of the guests continue as if nothing happened. Also, there's a rape scene, and if I ever wondered if Ben's companions were just as despicable as he was, I did not doubt after that.
While talking about despicable characters, Ben pretty much takes the cake. No joke, this sexist, racist murdering madman is about as hard to feel sympathy for as one can get. There's only weak hints of humor in his speech, and he doesn't reflect on any other level that the purely practical over the murderous acts he commits. In one way, you can kind of admire that, and when reading some of his quotes after watching the movie, he appears both eloquent and somewhat humorous, but in the moment, there's no mistaking it, he is a monster. A true, pure monster.
I've pondered on what exactly moved me about this movie. Could be the way numerous deaths are bagatellized to the point where it's but a footnote, or possibly the logic operating behind the insane minds who decided to follow Ben. Also, the fact that I actually have to remind myself even now, that it was, indeed, just a movie.
I'm on kind of an non-hollywood roll here. I've planned to watch both the original Funny Games and Irreversible, and we'll see how I'm handling that.