Judge Daryl Loomis loves the smell of barbecue.
Some men are created evil.
In 2010, the Israeli writer/director team of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado brought attention to themselves with their first film, the excellent Kalavet (known on US DVD as Rabies). Often called the first horror movie in Israel's history, it presented us with some strong slasher thrills with an interesting mix of political commentary thrown in for good measure. Now, the duo has returned with Big Bad Wolves and, as much as I liked Kalavet, their sophomore effort is even better.
Facts of the Case
Israel police officer Micki (Lior Ashkenazi, Footnote) went a little too far in his interrogation of suspected child rapist and murderer Dror (Rotem Keinan, The Exchange), forcing him to not only let Dror go, but having to apologize to him, as well. For his actions, Micki is dismissed from the force, but that just frees him up to freelance and force Dror's confession. But while he wants justice, another man wants revenge. That man is Gidi (Tzahi Grad, Eyes Wide Open), the father of the latest victim, and when that desire for vengeance turns psychotic, neither Dror nor Micki are safe.
Keshales and Papushado describe Big Bad Wolves as a fairy tale for adults and they really nail it. The title, of course, suggests it, but as they say in an interview on the disc, basically every fairy tale is about child murder or molestation, so they take that idea and make a movie out of it that is strictly for adults. Even though it's a comedy under the surface, this is some of the blackest humor you'll ever find.
It comes out organically in the story. There are no real direct gags; instead, the humor emerges from the situational happenings, especially when Gidi's father, Yoram (Doval'e Glickman, Lena, apparently a comedy legend in Israel), enters the picture. There's also the laughter that comes from the absurdity and excessiveness of the action on display, which is a little bit tougher for some people. It's comedy in the same vein as The Human Centipede, but I know full well how hard it is for me to convince people of that fact, and I'm sure it'll be just as difficult for Big Bad Wolves.
Even if you can't or don't want to see the humor in the situation, it still works great as a pure thriller and it looks gorgeous, to boot. Cinematographer Giora Bejach (Lebanon), with specific coloring instructions like no yellow (too cheerful) and few reds (better impact when they are used), shot Big Bad Wolves in a way that rivals far larger budgeted affairs. Take the opening sequence that sets up the story. It's just kids playing hide and seek, but it was filmed at 120fps to be exhibited at 24, giving it a menacing slow motion effect that not only is terribly menacing—helped greatly by the moody, Bernard Herrmann-inspired score from Haim Frank Ilfman (Nemesis Game), it's also incredibly beautiful. That score plays a big part in the movie, as well. It's never intrusive, but it adds just the right notes that add greatly to the film's suspense.
But without the performances, Big Bad Wolves would be a far lesser film. Luckily, these are strong all around, just like the rest of the movie. Ashkenazy is quite good at the Harry Callahan type cop, who thinks that just one more swing with the phone book will get the perp to talk, but also delivers the pathos with the troubles with his ex-wife and daughter. Grad delivers Gidi's understandable rage at the beginning, but as that turns into insanity, he stops being understandable and starts becoming an extremely fun semi-villain. Keinan has the most difficult role, that of having to convince both his attackers and the audience that he really isn't what people say that he is. I certainly won't say whether he actually did what he's accused of, but the writing and directing team have placed clues within the story that suggest the truth long before the reveal; the question is whether the clues register with the viewer.
I must admit that they didn't register with me, but once I knew the truth, I remembered those images and realized, for all the excesses on screen, there are genuine subtleties here that one couldn't have expected. Anything that moves from what looks like a police procedural into a torture and revenge movie is enough for me to watch; throwing in a genuinely well-crafted story, strong direction, and an interesting and consistent concept takes this over the top as one of the best horror movies so far this decade.
Big Bad Wolves comes to Blu-ray disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment in a release that is strong technically, but is lacking meaningful extras. The 2.35:1/1080p image looks beautiful. The colors are sharp, while flesh tones are perfectly accurate. The black levels are nice and deep, while fine detail is apparent throughout (though, given what that fine detail shows, might not be the most pleasant thing for viewers). I did notice a couple of slight digital errors, but that's a small quibble about an otherwise fantastic transfer. The Master Audio surround track excels, as well. There is great dynamic range throughout the channels and the dialog is always sharp, even while the sound effects and musical score receive a great workout.
Technically, it's a superb disc, but the two extras are pretty lame. The first featurette runs sixteen minutes and does a shallow job of discussing the movie. The second is a very brief television spot about the film, which uses a lot of the same footage from the first one. All there is besides those two are a trailer, so watch this disc for the movie, not the extras.
While on first viewing, it might be tough to enjoy Big Bad Wolves as a comedy, but on subsequent viewings, after becoming inured to the atrocities occurring on the screen, the becomes a lot easier to see how funny it is. But even if you aren't into that sort of gallows humor, it still excels as a sometimes unpleasant, but always thrilling horror film that I'm going to be happy to revisit many times. Highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
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