Filmmakers Aaron Keshales and Navot Papushado first came onto the scene in 2010 with Kalevet (Rabies), an original and excellent film that was trailblazing for not only being one of the first of its kind from their country, but, also pushing back against the standards of breakdown-type horror setups. Kalevet was self-assured and sharp, brutal and clever, just an excellent film all around and something I’ve championed to anyone with an interested ear. So with that in mind, my excitement for finally having a chance to see their next film, Big Bad Wolves, was no small thing. This comes with some trouble, though, because expectation is the mother of rose-colored glasses in terms of things or artists you like already. Talking about or obsessing about your expectations is a fool’s errand though because you’ve set yourself up for potential bias, positive or negative.
Clearly, I’ve thought about this too much.
Thankfully, they’ve made my job easy because their newest film, Big Bad Wolves, is a gut-punch:, an expertly crafted, tense, original nasty bit of business that demands to be seen again. This is not only for the way in which the story wraps around itself in the end, but, to re-watch an ensemble of players so on top of their characters that you cannot differentiate evil from stupidity, secret planning to dumb luck to motivation or intent between them and which that might sound frustrating, it is not. It is a small group of actors who absolutely own the hell out of the script and whose performances cloud your ability to see what might really be happening or what really happened. This, of course, is thanks to the script after all, but without this group of actors performing so well as a unit, maybe it doesn’t land as hard as it does.
Because as it stands, this film lands blow after blow at very strategic points so as to never let the viewer get too comfortable. Whether it is the opening credits showing an innocent game of hide and seek with school children resulting in a child going missing or if it is the exacting of violence on a potential suspect or a missed opportunity to nail down who did the awful thing or any host of other moments, this film is relentless and aggressive in every respect, even the score.
While the story is simple (child is abducted, circumstantial evidence suggests a local schoolteacher could be involved) the course of events from start to end certainly are not. The detectives are initially more focused on beating a confession out of their suspect rather than performing actual police work and the possible suspect in question must deal with the repercussions of being associated with such a heinous crime. Further, the father of the missing child must deal with his own guilt and controlled rage and what he’ll do to take control of the situation. Taking these very divergent motivations and situations into account, you’re left with a muddy, tough to wrangle escalating situation that tightens around the viewer not unlike a slowly warming pot of water serving to eventually cook an unsuspecting turtle.
While I would not dream of giving away the final twists and turns of this film, I will say that I was very satisfied with how it all came together and beside myself with glee over the craft of the film as a whole. This is a pulpy, bloody, violent, darkly comic and all together tough-as-nails story about a god-awful crime made worse by the combination of human nature and the law of unintended consequences. This film is masterful and I for one am fully invested in these filmmakers’ careers as they move forward. This is unflinching genre storytelling at its black-hearted best.