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Man Bites Dog Review

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A group of student filmmakers making a fly-on-the-wall doc on a serial killer gradually get drawn into his sick world.

★★★★★

Arguably one of the most ferociously disturbing films ever made, this bleak, raw, uncompromising feature debut from three Belgian students is a sick, twisted, unbelievably depraved piece of work that haunts the consciousness long after the cinema lights have come up.

Pitched as a documentary chronicling the exploits of Benoit (Poelvoorde) - a Belgian serial killer at work, rest and play in his provincial home town - made by a group of students, the film's gritty, grainy, black-and-white photography, hand-held camerawork and splattergun murders make for uncomfortable viewing.

A racist, sexist, opinionated thug, Benoit spouts off to the camera in between his homicidal handiwork, offering up his views on every conceivable subject, from the mundane to the murderous to the mechanics of weighing down a corpse. He even forks out the extra money to continue filming when the impoverished production runs short of cash. What succeeds initially as a searing, scabrous black comedy that questions the complicity of television in the portrayal of violence degenerates into a numbing series of increasingly shocking set pieces as women, children and postmen are gunned down, suffocated and literally scared to death, culminating in a sickening gang-rape in which the entire film crew cease being observers and become participants.

Harrowing, visceral and definitely not for the squeamish, the fake documentary approach is an effective and unsettling tool, and while the film never quite reaches the horrific heights of John McNaughton's chilling Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, it is, for better or worse, difficult to forget.

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