Berlin Crawling: 10 Halloween Horror Films
by James Glazebrook
Urban Explorer (2011)
The only way this sub-Hostel torture porn could only be more gimmicky is if it featured teenage vampires doing parkour. Capitalising on the buzz around urban exploring, and Berlin as the ultimate “urbex” destination, it does little to help the local tourist board by reinforcing dangerous German stereotypes. On their quest to discover Hitler’s bunker, a group of tourists fall victim to a sadistic neo-Nazi. (Because Germans = Nazis.) But I imagine this film is a far more terrifying viewing experience for native Berliners, due to its horrifyingly accurate portrayal of invading douchebag Touris. The best part? Spotting our local U-Bahn station at the end.
The U-Bahn is the starting point for Demons, co-written and produced by Italian master Dario Argento. A university student is pursued by a mysterious masked man who, instead of attacking her, offers her tickets to a horror film screening at a newly-renovated West Berlin cinema. Once there, art imitates art as the captive audience becomes prey for the Dèmoni of the original Italian title. Cue gore, gore and yet more gore, backed by a soundtrack featuring longtime Argento collaborator (and Goblin member) Claudio Simonetti, German metal mainstays Scorpions and Accept, Billy Idol and, um, Mötley Crüe.
A masked man also looms large in this short film inspired by Argento, and his fellow directors from the Giallo genre. Crowdfunded and shot in Berlin earlier this year, Yellow combines the slicked-streets, neon aesthetic of Michael Mann and Drive with old school Italian bloodletting. It oozes class, from the stunning opening sequence of Berlin from above, to the neo-Italo soundtrack from Antoni Maiovvi, to the poster illustrated by Graham Humphreys (Evil Dead). Currently doing the rounds at the world’s top horror film festivals, as well as Social Media Week here in Berlin, this is worth seeing the first chance you get.
Der Teufel von Rudow (2004)
Another indie production, The Devil of Rudow does little to mask its budget limitations. A hokey romp through a southern suburb of Berlin, this is an old-fashioned scare story slightly updated with modern hole-in-hand technology, a butt-kicking female lead and knowing gags: “It’s quiet… almost too quiet!” A must-miss.
How’s this for an elevator pitch? “A street sweeper who cleans up after grisly accidents brings home a full corpse for him and his wife to enjoy sexually, but is dismayed to see that his wife prefers the corpse over him.” My favourite part of that IMDB synopsis is the term “full corpse”, although film watchdogs would disagree, having banned the film from almost every country in the world. Arguably a serious social commentary, but undeniably grisly and transgressive, Nekromantik has become something of a cult classic.
Anatomy 2 (2003)
Anyone who’s seen Run Lola Run or the Bourne trilogy could be forgiven for thinking of Franke Potente as a credible, bankable German actress. But not anyone who’s seen the medical horror Anatomie or its Berlin-based sequel. Potente revises her role as a medical student-slash-investigator of creepy goings-on, to uncover a secret society performing human experiments with bionic muscles, with horrific-slash-hilarious consequences.
We Are The Night (2010)
Franka Potente was originally down to direct this sexy vampire thriller with the tagline “Immortal. Insatiable.” However, in the ten years it took to make it, writer Dennis Gansel took over director duties, finally releasing Wir Sind die Nacht after his (excellent) 2008 film The Wave – into a receptive, post-Twilight world. As far as teen trash goes, this looks eminently watchable, not least for some stunning shots of abandoned Berlin, including Spreepark and Teufelsburg.
Rammbock: The Berlin Undead (2010)
[REC] meets Shaun of the Dead. “Hide and seek. With zombies.” Whatever description you choose for this enjoyable siege movie won’t be as deep as director Marvin Kren’s: “I am more interested by stories with a pessimistic point of view of our society, and zombie movies always depict a world that is bad. It’s never been our intention to just do a film about the living dead; instead, we were more intrigued by the way people in Germany and Europe would react to that scenario. My generation would never take weapons and react like Americans would do; it’s not part of our culture. We would most probably panic at first and then try to find a way to escape alive out of this bad situation.” (Fangoria)
What. The. Freak. This über-low-budget fantasy shot in desaturated near-black-and-white tells the surreal story of a woman pursued through the woods (or is that Görlitzer Park?), after consuming some magic mushrooms. And something about Satan experiencing a heavenly vision. Oh, and the title is “Medusa” backwards. Seriously, WTF.
Last but not least, the most critically-acclaimed film in this list, Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession. An agonising portrayal of a dying relationship, that slowly spirals into occult happenings and Cronenburg-esque body horror, it features a hysterical, Cannes award-winning performance from Isabelle Adjani and some of Sam Neill’s hammiest moments. A deeply unsettling watch, Possession is worth sticking with if only for a glimpse at early 80s Berlin, especially the apartment location on a street divided by the Wall. Warning: this trailer contains mad spoilers.
Have you seen any of these horrorshows? Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.