Beneath the Horror conveyor belt of remake, sequel and dead teenager which Hollywood churns out year after year, there is an underground of young film makers whose passion for the films they grew up with is pushing them to make bold, exciting projects which salute the classics whist still managing to feel modern and original. I have already highlighted Jon Britt and Ryan Haysom’s superb Neo-Giallo, Yellow, and today’s film is in a similar vein, albeit with lower production values to be expected from a DIY production.
The Devil of Kreuzberg is a tale of love, witchcraft, friendship and murder in the city of Berlin. The plot revolves around two extremely close friends, Jakob, a reclusive writer, and Kurt, an assassin. Jakob is happy in love with his fiancée Linda, until he begins to have vivid nightmares in which she appears as a succubus like creature who kills him. Pushed to breaking point by these visions, he seeks the help of Kurt, asking him to murder Linda. Unbeknownst to both of them however, Linda is actually suffering from an age-old family curse, the curse of the Karnsteins. As the three characters continue to be tormented by their own personal demons, tensions mount towards a knife-edge climax.
Not a short but not a feature, The Devil of Kreuzberg is film of contractions. It’s about love, but a love in which one may be doomed to kill the other. It’s about friendship, but the friendship between a sensitive writer and a deranged killer. It it a Gothic Horror? A Neo-Noir? A Neo-Giallo? It is it’s own unique thing and that is what I found so endearing about it. The story line itself is imaginative and unique. The character of Linda, doomed to kill the very man she is in love with and wants to help, is different from any depiction of the ‘evil woman’ character I can think. In addition, the relationship between Jakob and Kurt is so extremely close one might believe them to be homosexually involved, which the film neither confirms or denies. It might be case that Hollywood is simply afraid of showing male friendships as close as this for the fear of this very connotation, and the film represents a fuck you to that attitude (it should be noted however that shots of gay sex shops are lingered on several times). The ending, which leaves behind the Noir cityscapes to go fully into the supernatural, is a tragic and somber inevitability to all that has come before.
Alex Bazshaev’s love and passion for this genre is felt in every place he chooses to place the camera. From the neon lights protruding in the seedy sex shop filed streets of night-time Berlin, to the claustrophobic interiors of everyday apartments and chilly car parks, Bazshaev makes the city a mysterious and dangerous place. It is this depiction of Berlin that so reminded of the Neo-Giallo, Yellow, and it is obvious that Bazshaev’s love spans from Italian thrillers to the traditional Gothic, which is also represented here in the form of a graveyard visit which reveals an ancient family curse. Incidentally, the name Karnstein should mean something to any fans of Hammer Horror. Bakshaev sets out to make a film for no one but himself and his love of the genre and succeeds where many others fail, wearing it’s influences on its sleeve but never descending into outright fan-wank. It would be amiss if I didn’t also give mention to the film’s soundtrack. The credits list a number of different contributions, and it’s an electric mix, ranging from Goblin/Fabio Frizzi style synth, outright prog rock, and Hammer Horror dialogue sampling.
The problems with The Devil of Kreuzberg are inevitable facets of a low budget, DIY production, in that the production values one or two times dip to a level that takes you out of the overall experience. There is one section where the sound apparently cuts out for seemingly no reason. Whether or not this was an artistic choice or not, I found it awkward and out of place. Also, it feels like a nit pick to criticize the acting, but while the three central characters are all very good and believable, some of the supporting players don’t fare as well.
Endearingly off the wall, The Devil in Kreuzberg makes up for what it lacks in production values with passion and imagination. It’s worth 48 minutes of any Horror fan’s time.
The Devil of Kreuzberg is being released on DVD on the Carnie Films label, and should be available by the end of this month.