Closing this year’s FrightFest with a sellout show Big Bad Wolves is a tale of revenge and what it does to the soul, a tale of masculinity in the modern age, a tale of paranoia and prejudice. To put it simply Big Bad Wolves is an astounding cinematic achievement and most definitely one of the best films of 2013.
On every level the film is expertly made and this is thanks to visionary duo Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado the co-writers and co-directors whose film Kalevet, better known as Rabies, was credited as the first Israeli horror movie.
Big Bad Wolves is only their second feature yet it looks like the work of two master craftsmen, cinematically stunning, structurally sensational and throwing the audience a thrilling story line that latches onto so many interesting issues and social political points without ever bringing down the pace and power of the utterly engaging narrative.
The story is of a child killer who is viciously raping and murdering young girls throwing the populace into a mass panic. With pressure on the police to catch this sick criminal, cop Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) breaks some rules by breaking the face of the bespectacled mild mannered teacher Dror (Rotem Keinan) while trying to beat a confession out of him.
Suspended for his actions Miki is still determined that he has the right suspect and continues his investigation regardless. But another man is after Dror and this man has a much more extreme way planned of getting revenge and he won’t let anything get in his way, even the truth.
Taking the dark and disturbing subject of a pedophile serial killer as its central storyline Big Bad Wolves is fundamentally a police thriller however along the way the movie mutates into so much more.
Although the directing pair have said their film is inspired by Kim Jee-Woon’s Korean revenge thriller I Saw the Devil there are so many sides to Big Bad Wolves that it would be offensive to pigeonhole it into one genre.
The relentless torture scenes, ultra realistic violence as well as the oppressive atmosphere which makes both films often hard to watch do put it in line with Jee-Woon’s work but the deep character studies of the three main protagonists played so brilliantly by Ashkenazi, Keinan and Tzahi Grad take it beyond being just an Asian horror homage.
Big Bad Wolves is very much an Israeli movie in every sense but most importantly in that it is heavily influenced by the social consciousness and attitudes currently dominating the country with its sense of anxiety, persecution and inherent intolerance all displayed by the three characters in a variety of ways.
The film is also a massive exploration of machismo and its negative effects primarily explored by the interesting story arc of Miki. The other overriding element is the effects of grief and loss on a person’s soul and how the internal torture they feel can lead them to acts of inhuman brutality all of which is acted out sublimely by Grad in his role as one of the victims fathers.
Most surprising is Keshales and Papushado’s injection of a heavy dose of ultra-black comedy into the proceedings and the gallows humor works brilliantly not only to offer relief in some of the most upsetting moments but also to amp up the realism of the situations in a strange way with the comedic coincidences and idiosyncratic characters all working wonderfully.
Brutally beautiful and telling a terrifyingly tense tale for our times with a razor sharp script Big Bad Wolves contains a terrific trio of power house performances and is a must see movie for all audiences. If Papushado and Keshales can achieve all this in only two films who knows what masterpiece they will bring to us next.