Milos is a retired porn star short on cash who is offered good money to star in the new film of an insane director. The only stipulation is that Milos will be given no script and will not know what will be filmed beforehand. His first scenes are slightly disturbing, even for Milos, but the lure of the fat paycheck keeps him performing. When asked to do more and more outlandish things, he tries to back out of his agreement, but by then it is too late, and poor Milos finds himself under the control of the director and forced to participate in some rather nasty activities. That’s the setup for A SERBIAN FILM, a film a friend of mine saw in SXSW this year; he remarked it was one of the sickest films he’d ever watched. Of course, I was instantly intrigued. One of the side effects of writing for this site is that I’m a bit…desensitized…to movie violence since the stories we report on D’D make horror movies look silly in comparison. So, I admittedly was curious about what they’d pulled off with this film. Now that I’ve seen it, I goddamn gotta admit that at times it is very depraved, and I understand why some feel that it crossed a line somewhere. Put it this way: if the term “newborn porn” leaves your soul in the fetal position sucking its thumb, then you better give this one a pass. But we’ll get to that in a second. First, check out the NSFW trailer:
As you can see from the trailer, this is not some low-budget hand-held-camera crap used to show off gory special effects. In fact, for a film that contains the material it does, it’s competently executed in almost every regard from the film’s technical aspects to the story to the acting. It’s a “rabbit hole” film in the same vein as REQUIEM FOR A DREAM in that we watch a character free-fall into a seemingly bottomless pit of depravity and horror. Like I said, I’m a pretty jaded movie watcher and rarely disturbed by any of them. There are the exceptions–films like MARTYRS, IRREVERSIBLE, and HAPPINESS to name a few. But the common thread with those films is that even if they were made purely to make me uncomfortable, that intent was transparent and they had characters you either related to or hoped for in some fashion. But usually, extreme exploitation films like AUGUST UNDERGROUND and MURDER SET PIECES–films that contain scenes of extreme gore, necrophilia, infanticide and pedophilia–have little effect on me, mostly because their purpose is obvious. I’m one stubborn bastard and don’t like my emotions blatantly fucked with. Films made with the sole intent to shock or disturb me, usually never do. A SERBIAN FILM did.
It wasn’t the graphic sex or the ultra-violence that got me, the punch to the gut comes from the use of children. It’s what sets A SERBIAN FILM apart from the rest of the extreme pack and the main reason the movie is being talked about so much. Other than that, there isn’t anything more disturbing here than in any of the films you will find at the top of any decades-spanning “Most Disturbing Film” list. But the use of children is done in such a way that it may well leave your stomach in knots. The scene that most are upset with, and the next sentence is a spoiler, depicts a man raping a baby mere seconds after it’s been delivered. The way people describe this scene, you’d think it’s much more graphic than it actually is (e.g., the viewer doesn’t see the rape), but what’s implied is more than enough to kink your brain a bit. This inclusion of kids have people blasting anyone who recommends it (check out the responses to Harry Knowles review), while others accuse the filmmakers of using cheap exploitation tactics under the guise of metaphorical, political protest–the explanation given by the creators as to the inclusion of the extreme content.
But you know what? I really don’t give a rat’s ass why they put a baby rape in their movie. It doesn’t matter if they wanted to show a literal representation of the phrase “being fucked from birth” or if they just felt like making waves when they crossed The Line by a mile. Either way it is still baby rape and neither reason makes it go down easier (no pun intended). But if I’m to start questioning the right for A SERBIAN FILM exist or asking why some scenes even needed to be shot, then I might as well start questioning other films that suffered the same type of negative feedback that are now considered classics. Did the anal rape in IRREVERSIBLE have to be 9 minutes long? Did they have to show the little girl get shot in the chest while holding an ice cream cone in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13? Did the killing of real animals need to be shown in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST? The list of things that should or shouldn’t be in a film is endless and would vary per individual viewer. It puzzles me that people are shocked that someone–no matter their intentions–decided to raise the bar and use children as shock material, especially with the recent run of successful films in the French Extreme genre as well as last year’s ANTICHRIST. Sure, there are some sickos out there who will use some of this movie as masturbation material. But in the end it’s all make-believe. A baby wasn’t really raped, no one was murdered, and, more importantly, no one is forcing anyone to watch it.
I’ve watched the film twice now and believe they could get a wider distribution with a little editing. Even if some of the most talked-about scenes were trimmed down or left out completely, I think the movie would still be worth the watch. I’m giving A SERBIAN FILM three-and-a-half prosthetic penises out of five, although I’ll never personally recommend it to anyone I know in its current form. Running this site already has my friends and family thinking I’m some kind of serial killer. Handing them a movie like this probably wouldn’t be in my best interest.
Rating:Tags: Horror, movie, review