What started with a routine divorce between Natalie Stein and her husband Tim, will soon take a turn into the unexpected and evolve into scenes of torture, bloodshed and slaughter.
You’ve got to hand it to the German horror movie-makers, they know what they’re doing and constantly pushing the envelope. No matter the budget (or the quality), there’s a certain level of extreme horror that we’ve come to expect from the films made by our Western European friends. I still remember the joy of renting a beat-up VHS copy of Nekromantik years and years ago, which, coupled with the additional rental of Pink Flamingos, has pretty much set the tone for my movie tastes ever since. Lucky for me, there is no shortage of directors continuing the tradition into the 2000s, one of them being Olaf Ittenbach.
Dard Divorce is essentially the story of an ugly divorce (in case you couldn’t tell from the title) that gets uglier when the soon-to-be ex-wife (Nathalie, played by none other than the director’s own wife, Martina Ittenbach) finds a threatening note in her house and her dog disappears.
Police find no sign of the dog, but take the note for further investigation. Worried that her husband (Tim, played by Barrett Jones) is planning revenge against her for requesting sole custody of their son and daughter, she extends a peace offering and invites him to meet her and the kids for dinner when he brings them back from his visitation. But they never show up at the restaurant. Late that night, after calling and calling, Tim appears at her back porch, bloody, missing fingers, and says “they” have the kids and that he’s screwed up, then succumbs to his injuries. Nathalie runs inside to call the police, but when they arrive there is no body and no sign of blood. It looks like we’ve got ourselves a mystery…
Well, kind of. What we really have is a bloodbath, complete with psychotic characters who are pretending to be something they aren’t, torture, more blood, and differing stories on where Tim is, what he has done, and where the kids are. And all the while, poor, confused Nathalie is beaten and broken by a couple of people she’s never met before, all because her soon-to-be ex-husband has found himself in league with some shady characters. Or has he? That, my friends, is the mystery of the movie. But it is hardly the focus, as that is directed toward all that wonderful blood.
What’s nice about this movie is that Nathalie is not portrayed as a hopeless, weak, scared woman who needs a man to save her. I’m not saying Dard Divorce is making a feminist statement, but some writers out there might take some notes (I’m looking in your direction, Hollywood). But it’s nice to see her angry about the situations she’s finding herself in, and intelligent enough to notice inconsistencies in stories and put some pieces together. Sure, she gets beaten pretty badly, but let’s just say that these fights are not all one-sided.
Ittenbach gives us and Nathalie a couple different versions of Tim’s story, each time told by a different person whom he ripped off (each one of whom is a different sadistic killer with their own personal preferences as to how they do their “jobs”), and each time giving different details as to how it went down and where the children are. And each time, we get another version of bloodshed involving guns, knives, axes, hammers, exploding heads, pouring guts, and more. In fact, about half of the blood and gore comes from flashbacks told by the multiple psychopaths. They all lead up to the final climax, where all loose ends are tied up nicely, albeit through some extensive exposition through dialogue.
Of course, this is not some high budget Hollywood blockbuster, so yes, there are some minor problems here and there. There is a section toward the end where whoever was doing audio must have fallen asleep and bumped the soundtrack up a couple notches, because some of the later dialogue is all but drowned out by the pounding score. And of course much of the gore is unrealistic and campy.
That’s the fun of it! What Dard Divorce might lack in continuity or shocking twists it more than makes up for in gore and brutality, and I think that’s what fans of the genre are looking for isn’t it? It’s bloody, it’s disturbing, it’s a German splatter film! Fans of the work of Andreas Schnaas, Andreas Bethmann, Timo Rose, or, of course, Heiko Fipper are sure to enjoy this one. Fans of The Break Up with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn? Maybe not.