Now which movie-lover doesn't love the following: You walk into a theater having absolutely no expectations whatsoever concerning the film you're about to watch. Then you walk out, approximately 90 minutes later, deeply impressed about what you've just seen on the big screen. Shamefully, I have to admit that my case was even a bit worse (and therefore the experience was even a bit better): I already had some expectations walking into that theater, and they weren't very optimistic. I assumed a film with a premise like THE UNGODLY could be either very good or it would just suck big-time. Nothing in-between. Just to be on the safe side, I was betting on the latter. Never was I so foolishly wrong. THE UNGODLY can easily be considered as one of the best movies about a serial killer to come out over the last 20 years (or even longer, if you take in consideration excellent movies like DERANGED and HENRY: A PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER). Actor Wes Bentley (the teenager with the cam-corder in American BEAUTY) is allowed to play with a bigger camera this time. He portrays Mickey Gravitski, a struggling filmmaker with no job and a severe alcohol & drug addiction. One night, he coincidentally succeeds in recording a murder committed by a notorious serial killer. However, it turns out that it wasn't all that of a coincidence that Mickey was at the right place at the right time the night of the murder. Mickey gets in touch with serial killer James Lemac and uses his footage to blackmail him. He wants Lemac to be the subject of his documentary. Being from Belgium myself (and after having read the synopsis) I couldn't help but thinking about our own Belgian little movie (our national cinematographic pride & joy, if you will) with the same subject matter released in 1992: C'EST ARRIVÉ PRÈS DE CHEZ VOUS (AKA MAN BITES DOG). And that was also the reason for my distrust: A movie with the same shaky documentary-style camera, without the outrageous black humor but with lame semi-philosophical twaddle instead? Wrong! Director Thomas Dunn indeed keeps the camera close to the actors' skin and the cinematography is often dark, gritty and depressing. But it always feels like a real film. The two most stellar elements of THE UNGODLY are the two leading actors and the plot. I don't know if Wes Bentley also might have any hidden comedian talents, but he sure can put down very believable, serious characters with rough edges. The young man simply looks tormented throughout the whole movie. But the most positive surprise definitely was newcomer writer/actor Mark Borkowski. He's not even a very young guy anymore, so where has he been all of his life? The way he shuffles around on screen, his (figuratively) scarred character-face, his sudden violent outbursts and especially his Brooklyn accent made me think a lot about Harvey Keitel. And I'm even convinced our dear Harvey couldn't have portrayed James Lemac in a better fashion. And then I also mentioned the plot, right? Well, instead of just registering Lemac's deeds & commentary and following him with a camera (much like the aforementioned MAN BITES DOG and HENRY did), THE UNGODLY manages to tell an intriguing story that even takes a few curves into the unexpected. The psychological cat & mouse power-plays between Mickey and James (who's blackmailing who actually?) are finger-licking good. And then there's the ultimate cliché that every killer somehow has to be traumatized by a tyrannical mother during his child-years. Well this movie actually does something with that concept. I was grinning and shocked at the same time when that subplot unfolded on the screen. It all adds up to THE UNGODLY being one of the most pleasant theatrical surprises I've encountered in a long time. I'll try to temper my enthusiasm and keep myself from rating it a 10/10 yet. But to me THE UNGODLY already earned its place in my personal "Serial Killer Hall Of Fame". And now please let the godless keep on killing... It produces great cinema!
Crime / Horror / Thriller
Crime / Horror / Thriller
Mickey is about to get his big break as an amateur filmmaker, from a serial killer who turns him and his camera into 'the perfect witness'.
May 28, 2020