Thursday, 18 November 2010

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: The Last Employee


I think I must be having a mid film festival crisis/breakdown. Not only has the mind-numbing Tuesday After Christmas been awarded this year’s Golden Owl Award for Best Film – WTF! – but the Silver Méliès award has also gone to a film with very little merits: The Last Employee. Plugged as a German film playing up to the Japanese horror style, it was neither scary nor clever. But I think I’m going mad. Everyone else in the screening (including my other half) seemed to enjoy it so I wonder if I’ve become too hardened in all my years of churning out reviews. Maybe I can no longer appreciate a simple, well-made, effective film without wanting the extra mile. But NO, I cry! This film was well below par, especially for a horror, and I’ll tell thee all why.

The general set up had potential: psychologically frail lawyer David (Christian Berkel – Downfall, Das Experiment, Inglorious Basterds) has to make a whole workforce redundant, but one of the employees takes it harder than the rest and naturally she’s the creepy, smashing her head against the wall for no apparent reason type who then hangs herself. Or in turns out, has hung herself before he took the job, meaning he’s either being haunted by an angry spirit, or he just thinks he is. In fact I was quite enjoying the first 20 minutes or so, and thought I was going to be in for a right scary time with the woman moving about Ringu like, and slowly infiltrating his life. I think the problem was man at the helm Alexander Adolph doesn’t have the confidence in executing a horror – you could see what he was trying to do, but it all felt so amateurish. In fact at one point the audience started giggling at how bad it was – David discovering the dead woman lying next to him in the bed and his subsequent WAHHH WAHHH WAHHHH screams were not in the least bit convincing. That trick failed a few times – he also finds her in his son’s bed, but it’s an instant ‘scare’, there’s no tension in him creeping up to the sheets and slowly pulling them back to reveal her horrible face. Her face isn’t even that horrible – just a bit pale and bumpy.

Sooo many wasted opportunities. The flickering lights and distorted music in the empty office – why was nothing made of this? It got to a point where I barely noticed it anymore because nothing of any relevance happened. I liked him speaking with Greta the grandma and the long shots of her standing against the wall as you expect her to turn around as the ghost, but that doesn’t happen. It was a nice bluff, but he could have pushed it further. How about following it up with a big jumpy moment just when you feel safe again? More could have been made of the hide and seek/scary monster game the family played too, although it did generate the best scare of the film (ghost’s eyes in the blinds). There were a few ‘hints of dread’ that were dropped by the characters – David talking about the scary creatures living in grandma’s back garden which she catches and keeps in the freezer – that I was anticipating coming into play later on in the film but instead were just left hanging. Again I don’t want Adolph to be too clichéd about the story, but it felt like it wasn’t all tied together as tightly as it could have been and that’s down to a lack of experience and a lack of vision.

The ending was also a huge let down – no twist, no revelation, no explanation. Just lots of blood and characters making foolish decisions. The whole thing felt very going-through-the-motions for me, and that’s not what I want when I go to see a horror movie – I want to be entertained, impressed or just too plain terrified to care – get it off my screen! I didn’t feel anything towards The Last Employee other than a big, fat meh. Quite what everyone else was watching is beyond me.

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