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Saturday, July 3, 2010

GRIMM LOVE -- movie review by porfle

[Note: Fangoria magazine has teamed up with Lightning Media and Blockbuster for a series of eight horror/thrillers which will be available exclusively on DVD, VOD, and digital download Sept. 28 under the "Fangoria FrightFest" banner. This film is part of that series.]


Why the hell would anyone want to be a cannibal, or a cannibal's  dinner?  I haven't a clue, but according to the fact-based GRIMM LOVE, aka "Rohtenburg" (2006), such a subculture exists and they're pretty serious about it. 

While part of the Fangoria FrightFest series, this isn't really a horror film at all, the gruesome elements shown so matter-of-factly that it de-emphasizes the horror and softens our repulsion.  In fact, at times it even feels a little like a tragic romance.  It would be different if Simon Hartwin (Thomas Kretschmann) were portrayed as an Ed Gein type, preying on unwilling victims and reveling in mindless sadism, yet he's anything but.

Katie Armstrong (Keri Russell) is an American grad student in Germany gathering research on notorious cannibal Simon for her thesis.  She has an unhealthy fascination for him and his crimes which will eventually cause her a great deal of emotional turmoil as she delves deeper into the case.  Meanwhile, we're shown flashbacks of Simon's unhappy childhood as he's separated from his father and forced to live with a mentally unstable mother who will never release him from her arthritic grasp as long as she lives.  Once freed to live out his increasingly twisted desires, Oliver turns to the internet in search of willing and equally-troubled subjects to help him fulfill his one great desire--to feed upon human flesh.


He meets Simon (Thomas Huber), who, for reasons that are depicted in further flashbacks, yearns to be taken apart and devoured like the character in a Grimm's fairytale he was read as a child.  Even a loving relationship with his handsome boyfriend Felix (Marcus Lucas) can't quell this obsession.  Oliver and Simon, isolated at last from the judgements and condemnations of the normal world, revel in a brief episode of intense mutual fulfillment which they perceive as something beautiful.

The cliche' "You complete me" would be pretty appropriate here, as they reciprocate each other's impulses and fulfill each other in the most basic fundamental way imaginable.  Maybe the most disturbing thing about the film is how understated and unsensational it is, as our sympathy for Oliver and Simon almost allows us feel, as they do, that the culmination of their mutual desires is natural and even necessary.  GRIMM LOVE certainly makes no attempt to frighten us or even to establish a creepy atmosphere.  Director Martin Weisz is interested only in presenting a very dark, slowly-unfolding character study which contemplates a terrible depravity with a certain amount of empathy for its hopelessly deranged participants.


As Katie, Keri Russell is good but doesn't get to do much emoting until the end, when we find out whether or not she's really as much of a sick puppy as we fear.  It's interesting to watch how Katie's initial perceptions of Oliver are affected as the comfort zone between her imagination and stark reality is diminished.  Thomas Kretschmann (KING KONG, BLADE II) manages to convey Oliver's inner pain and yearning with barely an overt gesture or expression--his feelings are deeply repressed.  As Simon, Thomas Huber gives the most moving performance as a man still wracked with sadness, regret, and fear even as he surrenders to the terrible bliss of his heart's fatal desire.

I watched a screener so DVD specs were unavailable.   According to Fangoria.com, extras will consist of "director’s commentary, deleted scenes, 8 FANGORIA FRIGHTS cable special and the eight FrightFest trailers." 

GRIMM LOVE is, ultimately, a weird love story about two people striving to satisfy their bizarre, overwhelming physical and emotional needs by reaching out to make a symbiotic connection.  The fact that what follows is utterly horrific and revolting is shown only through the shocked reactions of a third-party observer--the film itself seems blandly sympathetic.  "He was a nice boy," an old neighbor of Oliver's tells Katie, and we're tempted to agree even after we've witnessed his ghastly crime. 


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