‘Megalomaniac’: Fantasia Review | Comments

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Dir/scr: Karim Ouelhaj. Belgium. 2022. 100 minutes

The case of the Butcher of Mons, a serial killer who massacred and dismembered a number of women and left their body parts in trash bags by the side of the road between 1996 and 1997, has never been solved. And while this failure dealt a blow to family members and Belgian law enforcement, it offers writer and director Karim Ouelhaj an opportunity. Megalomaniac takes the butcher as the starting point for a film that turns into macabre phantasmagoria and macabre scenes of madness and cruelty. But while this is undoubtedly an effectively nasty image of horror, linking this inventively nasty scenario to a real-life case that claimed the lives of five women is perhaps in questionable taste.

The film’s malevolent vibe makes it a compelling watch, even when the plot has lost its last semblance of logic.

But then good taste doesn’t feature high on the film’s priority list, which begins with a birth scene so bloody it first looks like a torture sequence. And viewers who prefer their films to be set against such an unsavory backdrop that even the air seems somehow dirty will find their appetites whetted and their stomachs curdled by Ouelhaj’s take on the Butcher’s legacy. This is Ouelhaj’s fourth feature film, which won several awards including Best Short Film at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival for its 30 minutes of horror. The Silent EyeX. More festival screenings seem likely after the Fantasia premiere, especially at genre events and at midnight. And Megalomaniac could be housed with a specialized distributor, or in theaters on a streaming platform; the film sold to several major territories, including Japan and Germany.

The Butcher himself is a peripheral presence in this image who imagines he had two children, Felix (Benjamin Ramon) and Martha (Eline Schumacher), deeply damaged siblings who are both, in their own way, part of their father’s inheritance. Felix, waxy-skinned and bereft of eyebrows, took over his father’s extracurricular activities, praying over lonely women and cutting them up. He and Martha share a home – a huge moaning mausoleum of a place that seems stained by the horrors it has witnessed over the years.

Martha, meanwhile, is equally troubled but more complex. She has multiple personalities, one of which may or may not be Felix. In her menial job as a night cleaner in a factory, Martha suffers abuse that escalates to rape. But she is also the author of sickening cruelties inflicted on a young woman whom she keeps chained up, like a kind of pet. Schumacher gives an impressive, slippery performance that morphs between an unfortunate weakling and something tougher and wilder.

With a production design that favors a palette of eerie darkness, accessorized with plenty of angsty taxidermy, and camerawork that crawls like a slowly expanding wet patch, the film maintains an atmosphere of pungent discomfort. And it’s this, the film’s malevolent vibe, that makes it a compelling watch even when the plot has lost its last semblance of logic to the engulfing madness that is the family curse.

Production company: Okayss

International Sales: Media Move (International) [email protected] / XYZ Films (North America) [email protected]

Producer: Nicolas Georges

Director of photography: François Schmitt

Editing: Karim Ouelhaj

Music: Gary Moonboots, Simon Fransquet

Main cast: Benjamin Ramon, Eline Schumacher, Hélène Moor, Karim Ouelhaj, Pierre Nisse, Raphaelle Bruneau, Wim Willaert

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