Cult Cinema: Big Bad Wolves

Comedic torture or torturous comedy? Michelle Kisner is the judge!

"Want to play a game?"
I find the “torture porn” genre of films to be a very interesting animal. On one hand, should movies that feature gratuitous violence just for entertainment value be considered anything else but trash? Can you consider a film like A Serbian Film to be art? On the other hand, I am never one to stifle an artist’s creativity, even if it is something that can be considered highly offensive. One of my favorite films, Funny Games, is the definition of “torture porn” but I find beauty in its brutality. That brings us to Big Bad Wolves. Big Bad Wolves adds something to torture that seems unfathomable to the average person: humor. Yes, this is a funny film about a man being tortured—it’s gallows humor to be sure, but I found it fascinating how it made it seem more personable and well…human.

This is an Israeli feature and I can’t say I have seen too many films from this particular country of origin. It still feels very accessible to an American audience and there weren’t too many things I thought were lost in translation. The basic gist of the film is a man is accused of murdering and raping a child and due to particular circumstances is unable to be taken into police custody. Understandably, the murdered child’s father decides to take justice into his own hands. 

"Did someone say
they needed a light?"
Now, I give this warning: this movie is hard to watch. There are prolonged torture scenes and nothing is left to the imagination—I covered my eyes several times and I am pretty desensitized (for better or worse). However, the characters and situations are hilarious. It is subtle humor and the product of some very smart writing. Humor makes the torture scenes easier to handle but at the same time gives them more impact. It’s a fine line to tread indeed, but it is handled perfectly. Some might find it distasteful, but I saw what the directors were trying to accomplish. This film is also well shot and edited and looks like a high budget production. The gore is done with practical effects and is visceral and disturbing. Frank Ilfman’s musical score is very memorable as well and I found the main theme of the film to be beautiful and haunting.

The closest film, theme wise, to Big Bad Wolves is Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. It has that excellent combination of dark humor and brutality that is titillating and intriguing. If there is a case for “torture porn” being a viable genre in the movie world, Big Bad Wolves is definitely Exhibit A.

-Review by Michelle Kisner