When Anne and her family reach their holiday home in the country, they are confronted by strangers, with shocking results. But this is just the start of their living nightmare, as society collapses and they find themselves stuck with a makeshift community in a remote railway station.
With his unbroken run of stylistically and morally-challenging features - Funny Games, Code Unknown and The Piano Teacher - Austrian director Michael Haneke has raised expectations of each new release to event status.
There's a downside, however: any slip-up on his part will be doubly disappointing.
Time Of The Wolf has nothing new to add to the catalogue of cinematic visions about a post-apocalyptic world. In Haneke's hands, it's a cold, austere human landscape that focuses not on sci-fi effects, but on how social classes adapt to the lack of electricity and the need for bartering.
Indeed, the exact nature of the catastrophe is never explained.
The opening sequence, with its violent intrusion into a holiday home, is tense, but it merely echoes Haneke's definitive treatment of the subject in Funny Games. And once we're at the railway station, the film stagnates into a series of bickering arguments in a murkily-lit concrete block.
A superb European cast is wasted on a portrait of social breakdown that really has very little to say for itself.