A SERBIAN FILM: REVIEW

Written By: Matt Parks
May 26, 2018

“Cannibal Holocaust and Ferox don’t have shit on this movie. When you finish this movie, you’ll need at least a day to decompress. It will break you.”

I looked at the seller. The look in his eyes was a combination of sincerity and deception that everybody with a booth at a convention has mastered. My dad’s eyebrows jumped up rather intensely when the seller said that.

“I don’t think I need a movie like that, but he eats that kind of shit up” he said motioning to me.
“I’ll take it.”

With a sales pitch like that (and everything I’d previously heard about the movie) I had really been eager to finally see “A Serbian Film”. The film hold’s this legendary status among horror movie fans as the pinnacle of appalling cinema, and I was ready to face it like a Matador faces a bull. The movie was a beast, and I the feeble fighter with nothing but a cape and some prissy pants.
I watched the movie. It’s alright.
 


Now believe me. I understand it isn’t cool to watch horror movies just to try to be tough and say “Well it didn’t scare me!”. Nobody likes that guy. It’s stupid to spend money on something just to force yourself to not emotionally respond so that you can try to appear courageous in front of your friends.
I am not that guy.

So, what about A Serbian Film just didn’t work for me?  

Perhaps I better start with an overview of the movie.

This review is Not Safe For Work starting now.

The protagonist of the movie is a former Serbian porn star named Milos just trying to get by with his wife and son.  Instead of looking back at his past with distain, he acknowledges his success as a porn star as an achievement but hopes to move on past that. Soon enough, he’s offered a deal for a porn flick that’s paycheck will let him abandon his past life entirely. This new film has no script and leaves him in the absolute dark about what is to unfold, and he is presented with a series of more and more unethical tasks to participate in, and when he’s in too far his family’s life is in danger.
Now that plot summary really strips the film of what really drives it, which is sexual taboo involving sadism, masochism, rape, necrophilia, and pedophilia. Perhaps I should just call it shock value because that is really all that the movie works towards, which very quickly gets old, and not very shocking. The movie throws so much at you at such a quick pace, that soon the effect has dwindled.

Is it sick? Yes.

Is it disturbing? Yes.

Do either of these qualities ultimately end up serving the theme or narrative of the film? No.

The director, Srdjan Spasojevic, has repeatedly insisted that it’s “a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government” but once the audience has been repeatedly shown the disturbing lengths that the movie will go to, it very quickly ceases to disturb, and while the director claiming it’s an allegory seems to give meaning to the film, it sounds more like a quick way to avoid people calling the movie what he really wanted to make: torture porn.
The initial set up of the movie teases at an interesting character study about how far Milos will push his own moral boundaries to provide for his family, especially considering his already morally questionable past. This is very quickly rejected when the movie introduces Cattle Aphrodisiac that forces him to do terrible things without his realizing that he’s done it.  This shoehorned in plot device completely detracts from the impact of what the theme could have been for the sake of hammy shock value, deflating scenes that could otherwise be brutally revealing about the character of Milos.
While the movie really isn’t very good, I can most definitely compliment it.  For one, they did make an effort to keep the cinematography interesting. Multiple shots caught me off guard and did elicit a nod of affirmation from me or two. Also, while I do consider the “disturbing” imagery incredibly contrived and misplaced I can compliment the movie for pushing the envelope. Whether it’s torture porn or not, it stands as a punch in the face of censorship which is almost always a win for me.

So, do I recommend the movie?  If you’re looking for a movie to show to your friends so they’ll disown you, most definitely. I also recommend it for entertainment alone if you’re into the whole sick movie thing like I am. However, on purely cinematic value, the film very much falls flat.  It is in no way the political arthouse film that Spasojevic claims it to be.