German Angst's closing faux-vintage shot of a spring blossom aptly mirrors Goodnight Mommy's opening clip of the creepy Aryan family from 1956's Die Trapp-Familie singing "Guten Abend, gute Nacht". Both are meant to remind you that under the saccharine-sweet cultural image of dirndls, lederhosen and brisk, cheerful Bergwanderung lies a society that is completely at odds with all that. A society that many see as austere and repressed, but which is also well known for its dark excesses and a deep lingering pain from the still open wound of its recent past. Berlin-set horror anthology German Angst is overflowing with that pain and excess.
This three-parter, co-directed by Jörg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski and Andreas Marschall, is actually one of the more satisfying anthologies of the last few years. It's far more even than any of the V/H/S movies for one thing. An effort seems to have been made to tie the three segments together stylistically, and it definitely works in the film's favour. One very pleasing touch is to subtly include each film's title and director credit as part of its set dressing. The whole film is very nicely shot, particularly Buttgereit's opening Final Girl and Marschall's concluding Alraune, both of which are absolutely gorgeous.
Buttgereit's Final Girl feels like a distant mutant cousin to Nekromantik: different flat, different couple, same totally fucked up goings on. There might not be any necrophilia happening here, but Lola Gave's guinea pig* loving "girl" is every bit as sick and twisted as Rob and Betty were. Storywise this one is pretty slight, but that didn't bother me because it's just so visually interesting. Buttgereit's camera lingers lovingly on every inch of filthy squalor, and it really put me right there in that grungy flat. I could almost smell the mould and unwashed dishes. Some beautiful macro photography of a razor blade slicing into flesh and blood drops soaking into carpet are also memorably striking. Some strong sound design adds to the atmosphere and seals the deal.
Next up is my least favourite of the three segments, Kosakowski's Make a Wish, in which the ever present spectre of Nazism in Germany rears its ugly head. Kosakowski seems to be trying to make a point here about the relationship between victim and oppressor, but I didn't quite get it. No matter, it's still engaging enough, and the flashback sequence depicting a heinous Nazi atrocity in 1943 Poland is very well done. So well done on such an obviously low budget in fact, that I think Richard Raaphorst could learn a thing or two from it.
The best is left til last with Andreas Marschall's atmospheric, neon-lit erotic nightmare, Alraune. Along with Benson and Moorhead's Spring, this lurid little slice of psychedelic occultism is definitely the most genuine feeling Lovecraftian horror I've seen in a while. It really struck a nostalgic chord with me, as it kept reminding me of the heyday of the Gordon/Yuzna productions. Something about the look and feel of it, combined with the mix of sex, gore and practical creature fx. The cast give it their all, with Kristina Kostiv stealing the show as a seductive and tragic siren, while Rüdiger Kuhlbrodt devours scenery as slimy cult leader Petrus. Adding to the vibe of vintage eldritch mystery is Mathieu Amalric look-alike Milton Welsh's deeply intoned, hard-boiled voice over. Alraune's violent climax of sex, gore and hideous ancient evil is the perfect capper to a highly enjoyable and satisfyingly sick anthology. Seek this one out.
*A nod to the infamous Japanese series perhaps?