Sunday, April 18, 2021

A SERBIAN FILM (2010) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 104 Minutes 
Audio: Serbian DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, LPCM 2.0 Stero with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Srđan Spasojević
Cast: Srđan Todorović, Sergej Trifunović, Jelena Gavrilović, Slobodan Beštić, Katarina Žutić 

When I was a kid breaking my teeth on mainstream horror stuff like Halloween, The Shining, Evil Dead and The Thing, there was always a "next level" movie, some terrifying slice of terror the someone would dare you to watch next. The first one I remember was William Friedkin's The Exorcist, and during a sleepover we all watched it together, and to be honest I wasn't all that terrorized by it, having already seen Evil Dead it was a bit tame by comparison. Then it was Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I watched alone after my friend chickened out after daring me to see it, and it lived up to the hype, I was stone-cold terrified by it, the way it all ends with Leatherface swinging his chainsaw wildly in the street was off putting in a good way. After that it was the rape-revenger I Spit on Your Grave, which I did not actually watch for another 20 years, but thanks to my parents renting the VHS I heard the audio from when I was only about ten year-old. They were watching it in the living room with friends as I lay in my bed just down the hall and just the audio from it combined with my wild imagination upset me something awful. It was my first sexual violence film, and just the audio alone was enough to scare me off. I remember seeing the VHS box sitting on the coffee table in the morning, that image of a woman in a torn shirt with a knife in her hand, it sent a shiver down my spine! After that I started getting a bit more into Euro horror when the video store clerk lured me in with the line "wanna see something REALLY fucked up?", which brought me to Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and Zombie. Sure, they were gory but they weren't "I dare you to watch it" strength fucked-up. What was turned out to be Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, the idea of being eaten alive by "jungle savages" really got under my skin for some reason, maybe because it was my first cannibal film. I had thought about being eaten by zombies many times, but the idea of another living person eating me alive was some next level nightmare fuel. Sure enough when I watched it on VHS with small group of terror-seeking compadres I was absolutely scarred by it. The cannibalism was the least of it though, what got to me was the animal cruelty, the horrific acts of the white people, and the utter hopelessness of it all, it was a bit much for me at that time, and it still is to a degree. After that I thought I had seen it all, surely there was nothing else that could get under my skin or shock me, but I was wrong. In 2010 we got the now notorious A Serbian Film, a movie so heinous and disturbing that if I am being honest about it, I'd say I would rather catch my kids watching a straight porn film, but not this, anything but this! 

In the soul-destroying ultimate-exploitation flick we have a semi-retired, porn actor or some renown, named Milos (Srđan Todorović), who seems content living a normal family life with his wife Maria (Jelena Gavrilović) and their six-year-old son Petar (Luka Mijatović). At the start of the film we see a scene from one of Milo's fuck films, the camera pulls back to reveal that his six-year old son is watching one of his father's porno flicks after his father errantly left the DVD. The film is seemingly saying, "oh, you think this kid watching his father in a fuck film is shocking? Well, strap yourself in because this is not even the beginning of the horrors that your eyeballs will be taking in today, it's gonna get much worse!". 

Milo's received a phone call from a former porn co-star named Layla (Katarina Žutić), who calls upon him to meet her for lunch one day, telling him that an avant-garde arthouse porn director named Vukmir (Sergej Trifunović, War Inc.) wants him to make one last film, an epic arthouse porno that will pay him well-enough to keep him and his family living very comfortably for the rest of their lives. He agrees, with the approval of his wife, and embarks on a horrific sexual odyssey of depravity and violence the likes of which I promise you have never seen before. 

The first day of shooting occurs in a former orphanage, it starts off weird with Milos witnessing a mother scolding her daughter for becoming a prostitute, then receiving oral sex from a nurse while watching a video of that same young girl seductively licking an ice cream cone. Then the mother performs oral on him while the young girl watches from within the same room. This disturbs Milos, especially when he is directed to hit the woman, which he initially refuses to do, until but he is forced to continue by the director's security detail. Afterward he confronts the director who then plays a film for Milos, while describing his artistic style while they're watching a baby is born and then raped, the director stating that he has invented a new artform, "newborn porn.". Milos is disgusted and refuses to participate any further, storming off, but he wakes up later in his own bed with no memory of what has happened. He then returns to the now abandoned set looking for answers, where he finds a series of video tapes that recount what transpired during the time he has no memory of. 

What he sees is himself after being drugged with something that leaves his highly aroused and in a state where he is easily suggestible. He is horrified to see himself having sex with a woman and then decapitate her with a machete before he himself is sodomized by a member of Vukmir's security detail, and after that we get more rape, incest, skull-fucking, a woman choked to death on cock and suicide, followed by some implied necrophilia. It's all jaw-dropping, completely cruel,  and fascinating in a most disturbing way. 

A Serbian Films is a film that sets out to shock and offend from frame one and it succeeds and then some. There are things I saw watching this film that I never thought I'd see, never thought seeing, and to be frank, never want to see again. While it's not my cup o' tea I respect it for being a very well-made film and for being so repulsive by design and being so unforgiving about it. There are plenty of films that are advertised as being the next most-shocking, most-repulsive thing that you have ever seen but only to go on to disappoint, but this is not hyperbole, A Serbian Films is the real deal, a film that once you see it, you cannot unsee it. 

Audio/Video: A Serbian Films (2010) arrives on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films fully uncut and uncensored in 1080p HD framed in widescreen (2.35:1). This is a fantastic looking image, the depth and clarity are top-notch, image density is strong, allowing the disturbing visuals assault your eyeballs. Audio comes by way of Serbian DTS-HD MA  5.1 Surround and LPCM 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles. Like the visuals the audio can be a gut-churner, the sickening sounds of violent rape and murder come through strong. There's a wild and unsettling assortment of wet sounds, the sounds of sucking, choking, and blunt force trauma definitely get under the skin. It's not the most immersive 5.1 sound presentation but throbbing score from Wikluh Sky has a strong showing in the mix, and dialogue and effects are delivered with potency.  

Unearthed Films offer some solid extras for the flick, beginning with an audio commentary” with Srđan Spasojević moderated by Unearthed Films main man, and notorious filmmaker in his own right, Stephen Biro. The filmmakers get into the production in general, the cast and crew, the locations, the gruesome special effects, the cinematography, and Spasojević's early influences. A second audio commentary is more of a fan commentary with directors Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) & Adam Green (Frozen) of The Movie Crypt, and if you love their podcast you will probably have a good time with this one, who approach it as knowledgeable outsiders. 

We also get a pair of cast and crew Q&A's, a 47-minute 2010 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and a second 28-minute Q&A with Srdjan Spasojevic & Jelena Gavrilović from 2018 after a Los Angeles screening of the film. Between the pair they cover a lot of ground, and it's nice that the second one comes eight years after the release of the film, so they looking back at it with some tie and distance. 

The disc is buttoned-up the 3-min 
A Serbian Film Exhibition showcasing props used in the film, and the 6-min Behind the Scenes of NBP which highlights the effects work from the film, including the notorious baby-fucking prop, a 2-min photo gallery, and a 3-min preview of Unearthed Films A Serbian Film documentary. 

The single-disc releases arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster design, plus we get a slipcover with a different artwork that is as cool as it is disturbing in the context of the film. The Blu-ray disc itself also features an image from the film. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Srdjan Spasojevic & Stephen Biro
- Audio Commentary with Joe Lynch & Adam Green of The Movie Crypt
- 2018 Q&A With Srdjan Spasojevic & Jelena Gavrilović (28 min) 
- 2010 Q&A from Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (47 min) 
- A Serbian Film Exhibition (3 min) HD 
- A Serbian Documentary Preview (4 min) HD 
- Behind the Scenes of NBP (6 min) 
- Photo Gallery (2 min) HD 
- Trailer (2 min) HD 

Unearthed Films uncut and uncensored presentation of A Serbian Film is excellent through and through. The film is a jaw-dropping, gut-churning, angry shocker that delivers on the much ballyhooed hyperbole, and to be honest, it delivered far FAR beyond even that, I was floored and spent by the end. Now, would I watch it again? Hmm, not out of a need to see it again, but if someone were to say to me that they cannot be  shocked by a movie I would say to them, "I dare you to watch A Serbian Film", and I am pleased that there's a taboo-breaking film like this out there for those time-honored coming-of-age "I dare you" occasions.