“Angst” (1983): Straight Murder, Son

 In film, Notes, Reviews, Writing

Despite my best efforts, movie nights normally turn into adding films to watchlists across different platforms in lieu of actually watching… anything. Cut to last week: The cycle starts. My thumbs’ sore from flipping around and my eyes are all heavy from jumping back and forth between screens (harrowing, I know). It was midnight and I was bent on watching horror – I wanted a midnight hour. A drive-in without the drive. That was the agenda.

I landed on Angst (dir. Gerald Kargl) and was immediately hit with a slew of white text: “For the squeamish, discretion is advised,” “Banned in Europe” for XYZ, “Ultra-Graphic Content.”

Alright, so I’m to be held accountable for my own discomfort. Got it, no problem.

It starts out with a man’s face as he stalks the sidewalk, scanning houses across this wide Austrian suburb. He stops and glances to the right at this unassuming two-story and makes his way to the door. He knocks, it opens – an old woman. His hand rises into view clasping a gun.

“I’m shooting now.”

He does just that. What follows is a psychological-profile and narration of this unnamed killer’s behavioral history and 79 minutes of him skulking around and terrorizing a family of three after he’s released from prison.

We are placed into his head, in every facet. Scattered narration, disorienting camerawork, a sadistic performance, and raw, spacious cinematography make this a churning, cerebral, arresting experience. All the adjectives.

This is a film more concerned about the effort that it takes to murder someone than it is exhibition for exhibition’s sake. It doesn’t hold onto the “why”: it’s how long it takes, the physical labor, the adaptiveness, where that drive would come from. The man is an animal but, undeniably, human – a monstrous, despicable, inhuman human. There’s no sympathy for the killer, no real foundation for his actions.

It’s horrifying, made worse by the fact that this was directly modeled after a local crime that occurred just three years prior – so directly that it was banned across Europe. I wasn’t sure if the “Based On A True Story” would hold, but it contains actual quotes from the killer (Werner Kniesek), among others. The lead uses the same model car to carry things out. The deaths are eerily similar. Whole thing’s fucked.

What you get, essentially, is the chance to poke the body with a stick; To have this perspective flipped into the eyes of the audience and touch the aura of murder.

I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m extremely pissed that it feels as essential as it does: this has to be some of the best camerawork I’ve ever seen and, thankfully, it doesn’t fall into the trap of victimizing the killer and justifying their existence.

It is absolutely worth the watch and subsequent nausea.

The Unrated Cut is available on Shudder. If you don’t want to sign up for it, Prime has the other version. Either way – this is a wonderful film to watch with your loved ones, preferably after church, lunch, or on Easter Sunday.

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