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Film Review: Brutal (2006)

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SYNOPSIS:

A group of criminals kidnap a woman for ransom, hoping for a big payday. Unfortunately, they discover that crime doesn’t pay.

REVIEW:

Brutal is from director Filip Chalatsis, and is a Greek horror film. This, by itself, was interesting to me, because I can’t for the life of me think of another Greek horror film I’ve ever seen. I love horror from all over the world, and foreign horror is intensely fascinating in its social commentary and brutally disturbing in its nihilistic and existential content. But Greece cinema is not something I’m especially familiar with. As a matter of fact, I think the only Greek film I’ve ever seen was Dogtooth (which is absolutely astounding, and is a must-watch on any Disturbing Movie Fan List). So, hey, I’m down. I’m all for expanding my film horizons, and if Greece is making good horror now too, then I’m all for it.

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Yeah. They’re not. At least not if this film was any indication. Literally nothing of interest happens in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Static camera shots, hazy effects added in to hide the poor production quality. Every shot had a weird filter over it, which certainly could be of interest if you’re shooting an art house film, but there’s no artistic merit to this film whatsoever. The director uses jump cuts to seemingly distract from the mundanity of what is actually appearing on screen. Amateurish is too kind a word to describe this film making.

The film is about a group of kidnappers who are not very good at kidnapping. They snatch a rich man’s daughter, hoping to make off with a hefty ransom. Shortly thereafter, they start offing each other, with jealousy and paranoia winning the day. The dialog is boring and monotonous, and it feels more like a drama through probably 90 perfect of its runtime. It is very script heavy, or so you’d think. Apparently, there was very little actual script involved. The actors were gathered together, given the basis for what the individual scene they were shooting was about, and then just kinda ran with it. Unfortunately, everyone involved here seem to be a bit of a rambler, as I kept being distracted from the nothing that was happening in the plot by the nothing that was happening with the dialog.

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The film is shot in a found footage style through a lot of the movie, with handheld cameras providing what little bit of artistic integrity that is to be found in the film. It is, essentially, a smash cut of a bunch of different scenes filmed at different times. Shot on one camcorder with little to no added lighting, the director wanted things to appear as real as possible, generally not telling the actors what was going to happen before it actually went down. While this can be an effective way to keep your crew in the dark, generating real surprise and actual emotion from the actors, it can also result in a jumbled mess of a film that keeps the audience in the dark as well. It’s really a poor film, and while I hesitate to come across so harshly, I can honestly say that Chalatsis probably would’ve been better off had he not bothered to make this one at all. I know that I would’ve been better off had I not watched it.

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After looking to see what else Chalatsis has made, I realized that he also directed a short film I reviewed a while back called Sick, under the name Filip Halo. It became clear that this film is just a full-length version of that one, which was actually more interesting than this film in that it involved typical horror elements like zombies and madmen. In that short, a woman was kidnapped and held in a room with people intent on causing her to harm, eventually escaping and delivering her nasty boyfriend to them instead. While that film certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, Chalatsis took that premise, which sounds promising, and made this film about the very same plotline.

Unfortunately, his skills as a director are really more suited for the 13 minute runtime of the previous film. It’s really difficult to extend a boring plot too much father and keep your audience. Perhaps he should’ve viewed this as more of a sequel, because this one would’ve been much more adequately titled Suck.

3 comments

  1. I watched a slasher that this director did called Razor. It was honestly one of the worst horror films that I’ve ever seen, I’m sorry to say. Completely killed my interest in checking out any of his other works.

  2. Well, first of all thank you for the review, it is a movie long lost that still brings back some nice memories. It was a no-budget experimental little movie, while I was in Theater school, and found its way to a major indie film festival and got some attention from the only movie magazine and other newspapers in Greece back in 2006. I haven’t even sent it to this festival at all and I wasn’t expecting any of that to happen. The movie is by no means a horror movie, it is a dark comedy and works only if you are Greek in terms of the language used inside. It was probably the first time that actors on the big screen in Greece were using some of the filthiest slang phrases, and it was authentic. It was also shocking for the audience, cause the movie had no promotion, they had no idea what to expect. After the first slap in the car scene with the snitch, the audience started getting the whole joke and they laughed with all the other jokes inside until the end. The violence is cartoonish and pretty much unexpected, because it is very serious at times and obviously the whole ending is very depressing and anti-climatic. 81% of a full theater liked the movie (there was a vote right afterwards).

    Brutal is a statement against the bullsh*t funding system in Europe, how movies get made, especially in the most corrupted country-Greece- and unfortunately you have mentioned the worst example, Dogtooth, from a guy who took over 10 million euros from state funding together with his “boyfriend” for movies, that nobody has seen up to that point. The money scheme with state funding has to do with the “producer” providing evidence that he owns the amount of money he is also asking from the state (300K to 1M), he gets the same amount and puts one third into his production. Although this is just a loan, movies are “companies” and when they don’t bring back any profit, they go bankrupt. For the state officials to be legal, the movie has to be shown once in a theater (just once!) and the film festival of Thessaloniki counts as that one time. The major scum here, is that any movie that is funded by the state, it will be screened in that festival as a rule, without anyone judging its quality. The “producers” often get away with 100K to 500K for movies nobody is able to find anywhere afterwards.

    As a young naive filmmaker, as soon as you understand this, you want to grab a gun and shoot everybody involved. To become one of them literally means you are a family member or a cocksucker who is willing to go down on his knees, no other options, oh and communism, if you love the left wing you get some. So, after experiencing this before 2005, I went on to create something just for the fun of it. I had no crew in Brutal (I really mean that, there was just me shooting with a handycam, no lights, no mics, nothing). Some of the actors helped me with some of the scenes and with the special effects, and I know the movie should be just an amateurish little piece of sh*t, but somehow it is a MOVIE! I don’t know how, but it doesn’t look like other amateur movies I have watched over and over. The real problem is that it doesn’t look like anything else at all! I get your frustration while watching it, I wish I would have done some things differently, but you have to watch it with different expectations, if you compare it to other movies while watching it, you are missing the point. It’s not horror, it’s not a comedy, it’s not trash, it is the point of view of a person, who is willing to learn cinema and to study the art of filmmaking. I wish I was privileged to go to a real cinema school (I “studied” cinema in University in Greece, but it was an absolute waste of time, we had no cameras, no editing suites, we were watching Tarkowsky’s and Bergman’s movies for the first couple of years and we didn’t even learn how to approach state funds or producers). I was in the wrong country for years and I lost time trying to find people here and there. Greece had only two brothers who were creating special effects, and that is what you see in Razor. I managed to upgrade my equipment and skills after Brutal on my own, but that same movie brought a lot of unnecessary attention and hate, cause that independent film festival and magazine praised it, while ignoring others, who were well organized with state funds. I closed the door forever with the Grek film center, without even knowing it and without any attention to do so. I wrote two great scripts back in 2006 and 2007, and the film center didn’t even give a chance to read them, cause I didn’t have a producer who could do the trick I mentioned above. I have learnt the hard way.

    Razor on the other hand was an attempt to find some connections with US producers, I shot about 40% of the original script, due to technical issues and lack of budget, that is why it’s just torture and plot gaps. I tried to create some decent special effects, I was disappointed with English accents and huge mistakes from the actors, but I had to edit it somehow. I didn’t even want to make that movie at all, but I was convinced by a US-Greek “producer”, who seemed to have the right connections and the money. He disappeared just before the shootings. I had to cancel it, but when you are young and stupid, you think you can do everything somehow. I don’t like slasher movies that much and nobody from the cast had any idea what a slasher movie is. The jokes I wanted to create didn’t work on the set. There were chase scenes planed, a whole BDSM very weird situation with one of the characters, that I had to cancel, because the actress who agreed to be in that scene, fought against it on the set, after we had filmed other scenes with her. The original location was canceled because we couldn’t afford it with no producer and budget, so what you have watched inside are three different houses. My storyboards had no use for the re-location at all. I have learnt a lot from that experience and from a terrible camera operator (I wasted HDCAM tapes with him), and if I ever go back to slasher movies, I will create a new intelligent breed of a slasher movie, cause there are more things that I hate about them, than the things I love in them.

    Sick was one of the last experiments of that period, I shot it in the summer of 2006 with a couple of friends, and it was liberating. We had fun, I had fun for the first time after Brutal. Cause Brutal was a lot of fun on the set. Sick is not a horror movie at all, it only has to do with domestic violence and bad relationships. It is the “bad dream” of a child who sees his parents fight all the time. It was easy to arrange and to create, but it was no real homage for TCM or zombie movies. My goal was to learn how to approach the actor, how to create realistic situations and how to elevate my skills. I don’t blame you for not liking it, horror fans cannot like movies that go against horror standards, while other cinephiles cannot love arthouse movies that are weirdly violent and remind them of horror. I love horror in general, but horror is something different for me, it is epic and disturbing, it is drama, I hate everything supernatural and I don’t believe in anything that cannot be proven. That is a curse, how can you create magic as a filmmaker if you don’t believe in anything at all?

    Almost ten years afterwards, and after almost losing my life a couple of times, I am not making the same mistakes, that is why I am still working on my new movie. And this time is for real, it’s not an experiment and it is not a joke. I hate how silly most movies are and how most people are easily scared. I am a different kind of geek and technican, I have learned to pay attention to any single detail in cinematography, editing and directing. I am a video editor for the last 15 years, and what I am doing right now are techniques that nobody else dares to use. It’s a bit early for the new movie, I made a very simple teaser trailer last year after I shot some of the first parts of the movie, but is a very basic little thing and shows about 20% of what the movie is, no major cast inside the teaser and no dark elements at all. I keep the scary parts for the final preview and the official release. No other guy in this industry has had the bad experiences I had so far, and I am aware that I did some mistakes, while trying to do what I love. It would be easier to follow other people’s steps and to create something that looks familiar, BUT THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I HATE. I have chosen the wrong and difficult path, and that is what I am paying for years, but it is the one thing that made me stronger and provided all the needed energy to overcome any difficulty. I am not satisfied now until I reach perfection, in terms of script, direction, acting, photography, sound, editing and the whole general impact that the movie will have. It wasn’t easy to communicate such a vision, most people got scared or couldn’t relate to it, even horror SFX artists became scared with what I have presented to them, especially some very nasty taboos, that nobody has included in any movie so far. The movie is going to haunt every viewer forever, I am trying to create the first movie that can crawl deep under your skin and will affect you for the rest of your life. This is no fun for me and I own it to myself and to everyone who wasted some time watching my old crap. Some of that crap have some minor elements inside that worth a second viewing, minor details and moments of truth, but I don’t blame you for not loving them. I really love your critiques, because they feel honest, that is why I wrote back. I prefer hard critique about my work, than people who don’t dare to say anything or judge them in comparison to 1M dollar productions. If you want to know, Brutal has cost around 100 bucks (tapes and a HDD), Razor about 2K (SFX, gallons of blood, real tools, Hard drives and HDCAM tapes- the dick-in-half prop had cost like 450euros back then) and SICK you don’t want to know, let’s say only time and love, that’s it (and 2 HDCAM tapes). I am not joking around with the new one, PARAPHRENIA, cause I want it to look more expensive than SAW and other 1M dollars productions, but the cost is bellow average, still very high for a single person and still hard to gather. Whole bodies as props and 30 different paid locations are not cheap, but I am close.

    http://www.paraphrenia.com

    All the love guys! You can’t probably believe that I really enjoyed your comments, but I did! And To Lord Crayak, don’t worry, I will send you a free copy of Paraphrenia for losing your time with Razor.

    Filip Halo

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