Writers: Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan
Running time: 106mins
The lowdown: From the makers of Rabies, Israel’s first horror movie, comes Israel’s second horror movie. A nasty tale of revenge torture, child abduction and particularly dark impulses, Big Bad Wolves is confident horror filmmaking, but not without problems. And bring a strong stomach.
The full verdict: Like all good fairy tales, Big Bad Wolves features good and bad and both are plain to see.
First the good. Writer/directors Kehsales and Papushado understand how to sideswipe audience expectations, making plot twists and turns with the brio of Tarantino in his heyday.
Shocking violence, sweaty-palmed suspense and vicious black humour all point toward the duo producing a great thriller sometime in the future.
A plot mixing hot-button issues and evergreen horror staples focuses on three men embroiled in a nasty murder case after a girl’s headless body is discovered in a park.
Miki (Ashkenazi) is a renegade cop caught on camera attempting to beat a confession out of key suspect, religious schoolteacher Dror (Keinan). Suspended from duty, Miki continues his pursuit of Dror, but both cop and suspect find themselves in the soundproofed basement of Gidi (Grad), the father of the most recent murdered girl.
Gidi wants the whereabouts of his daughter’s head and will do anything to find out.
An opening credits kid’s game of hide-and-seek, played out in slo-mo to a portentous score, wry twinning of Miki and Dror (both are estranged family men with lives ruined by the viral video), Gidi’s dark plan becoming a family affair, and first rate performances from the three leads are all to be savoured.
But, ultimately Big Bad Wolves leaves a bad taste. Gidi’s recounting of Dror’s (alleged) crimes as a bedtime fairy tale tips into callous shock value and the torture is depicted with naughty schoolboy glee.
More troubling, despite Grad portraying Gidi as a dead-eyed, detached Nazi style interrogator (and Grad’s Ride of the Valkryies ringtone suggests Keshales and Papushado directed the actor this way) Big Bad Wolves comes close to endorsing torture as a means of information extraction, sidestepping more intriguing moral dilemmas in favour of a race against time climax.
Hopefully, Israeli’s two-man horror team will have a happier ending with their next outing.