By: Heather Seebach
Filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado made waves in the horror community with their 2010 debut, Rabies which was billed as Israel's first horror movie. Last year, their sophomore effort made an even bigger splash when Quentin Tarantino himself hailed Big Bad Wolves as the best film of 2013. Does it live up to that hype? Not quite but it's still a solid thriller/dark comedy, especially considering it was made in a small country by two relatively inexperienced writer/directors.
As its title suggests, Big Bad Wolves is meant to be a sort of adult fairy tale. The brutal murder of a little girl brings together three men - a grieving father; a rogue cop; and a Bible teacher suspected of the crime. The latter is held captive in a basement for questioning with disturbing and often funny consequences.
Despite its set-up, Wolves manages to avoid the pitfall of being just another torture porn. There is no shortage of toenail-pulling and broken bones but the centerpiece here is the dark humor which recalls bleak Coen Brothers entries like Fargo. My only complaint about the film - and it's more of a vague feeling than a specific issue - is the way it teeters between comedy and brutal drama. The film does not comfortably nail the balance but when it commits to one mood, it does so effectively.
Upon initial viewing, the light-heartedness and the Grimm fairy tale theme led me to expect some great, ironic message but in the end, I just felt empty-handed. That little invisible thorn in my side has since grown smaller upon second viewing, though. Multiple viewings are also beneficial because they illuminate details you will no doubt miss the first time. The script is very good at misguiding the viewer through red herrings and emotional manipulation.
Wolves also has the benefit of multiple great performances, a fantastic score, and lovely cinematography. Slow, haunting tracking shots are a highlight. The film focuses largely on the way revenge makes beasts (or wolves, rather) of all men, but it also touches on topics like police brutality and presumption of innocence. Fans of dark comedy and revenge thrillers are sure to be pleased with this one.
Pick up Big Bad Wolves on Blu-ray using the link below! The release also includes a 16-minute making-of featurette with on-set footage, plus cast and filmmaker interviews: