The hills are alive with the sound of screaming! There’s an Alpine legend about three lonely herdsmen who were so starved of female companionship they built the girl of their dreams from a broom, some straw and a few rags. Then the Devil took pity and made Sennentuntschi live and breathe so she could cook, clean and look after them. But when they started treating her like a common whore, the revenge she took was so horrific the locals still shudder to this very day. Now that fable informs the first ever shocker from Switzerland, a complex and twisted tale of past crimes, tragic love, ghostly encounters, horrendous murder, unexplained suicide, fiery disfigurement and sexual enslavement. Continually surprising, brilliantly directed and superbly acted by Roxane Mesquida (resembling a young Barbara Steele), CALVAIRE meets ANTIBODIES in this unusual and beguiling mystery chiller that finally puts Swiss remiss on the genre map.
“Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps” bases itself in the Swiss Alps, a rather seductively beautiful part of the country where old lore and legends seem to hold true in the story at hand. The film originates from Austria, set within Switzerland, under the direction of Michael Steiner.
“Sennentuntschi” is rooted in a horror/mystery genre premise that actually takes a direction different from many films of it’s genre. Sennentuntschi is a bit of a curious name which is later revealed to be the practice of building a human size doll from a broom & parts. Under a collective chant, lonely men are said to be able to call upon this entity to come into existence. The legend goes, that by morning the doll will be replaced with a beautiful woman who will fulfill all their sexual desires while providing the care of a woman on hand. It also states that she murders them in an act of revenge. This being, which some believe is sent straight from the devil himself, is called a “Sennentuntschi”.
The film opens up as a young girl discovers the bones of a 30 year old body within the mountainous setting of the Alps. The movie tends to move in waves of time segments that reveal its pieces thru its sequence of events. No worries though, as while that idea can be confusing it was actually a nice part of the filmmaking process. In fact it succeeds in providing that “mystery aura” that it sets itself up for.
The town is a quaint close community that shares its pains, stories and ways of life. Sebastian Reusch (Nicholas Ofczarek) is the local constable who “despite” being from a small community is quite bright and able to put the pieces of events together. A detective of sorts.
The town is rocked when a local priest is found hanged to death by apparent suicide. Shortly after, a soiled cloaked woman appears in the town streets and is taken in for investigation. Despite her lack of speaking, she is immediately taken to Reusch who appears to be the only caring soul in town. Reusch makes best effort to disover her identity and in turn also develops a fondness for her.
The head priest assumes her of the devil’s work and makes every attempt to scorn and wish her dead. Notter (Hanspeter Müller), the town mayor also begins to suspect the woman of ill nature.
While these events are in progress, we are taken to a separate story within the area involving Erwin, his mute son Albert and city boy Martin who seeks to reside with them in the mountains away from his former life.
The 3 of them tend to local chores such as cheese making and goats while enjoying their time together over a few bottles of Absinthe. The sub story mirrors the legend as one night the 3 of them perform a ritualistic chant over a broomstick mannequin. To their surprise they awaken from a night of heavy drinking to discover that their makeshift doll has been replaced with a beautiful woman.
This woman happens to be one of the same discovered by Reusch and scorned by the townsfolk. We assume that she makes her way back and forth between the village and mountain residence to avoid the confrontations of the townsfolk. It all works pretty well and works itself up into a surprise of sorts with 3rd act reveals.
I really enjoyed “Sennentuntschi” as a new inclusion into the genre. It’s written quite clever and manages to introduce a new folk tale that hasn’t been introduced before,
Side note: Upon research I couldn’t find any immediate proof that this was based on a “real legend, so I assume it was only a product of the film itself.
While its parts may at first be a little confusing, it doesn’t stay in that realm very long. Films such as these make their way thru their purpose by letting its viewers contemplate the results and assumptions made. Notions such as this being a ghost story, a devil movie, or something else, make the production more interesting in the long run. Worth the time, despite a few subtitles, “Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps” is a clever solid piece and thriller of a film.
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps (2010)