Angst (1983)

More based-on-a-true-story psycho killer business! I’ll confess to some puzzlement as to quite why this film has the reputation for viciousness it does; only three killings and only one of those notably bloody; I presume it’s the, er, sex scene after the last killing that really does it. Anyway, Angst‘s fame—such as it is—rests pretty much on its refusal to be the sort of conventional serial killer/slasher film it seems to have been made in opposition to, and its ambition to show what killing of this sort is “really like”; Steven Jay Schneider says in this article that the film’s “failures” as a slasher are what makes it a success as itself. I am not even remotely convinced by this argument. The killings may not be “aestheticised”, but the film itself undeniably is; refusal to “aestheticise” constitutes an aesthetic itself. “Realism” is just another set of codes and signifiers. Angst‘s particular style is built around its predominantly blue-gray colour scheme, its somewhat strident sound (just dig all that breaking glass!), and especially its astounding camerawork. All those amazing high angles, almost everything—including interiors (which really fucks at times with your sense of spatial orientation, a floor looking like a vertical wall and so forth)—looks like it was shot from a camera crane (except for the equally astonishing low angles)… the cinematography is really the best reason to watch this film, certainly its “analysis” of the psycho killer isn’t… the never-named family of three that the similarly never-named killer wipes out are just as much Expendable Meat as any of the kids in Friday the 13th and its ilk, and the killer is frankly barely even a non-entity; as Schneider does rightly note, he’s not even much good as a killer, none of his “plans” work out. Maybe his dullness is meant to be the point of Angst—that real killers of this sort are nowhere near as interesting as they are in films—but it does nothing to make this film any more interesting, and its “failure” to be a regular slasher film only make it a failure generally, not a success at being something else. Hugely overrated.

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