Grimmfest: Megalomaniac (2022)

Director: Karim Ouelhaj

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Starring: Eline Schumacher, Benjamin Ramon, Wim Willaert, Pierre Nisse, Raphaëlle Lubansu, Quentin Lasbazeilles, Olivier Picard. Catherine Jandrain

Opening his latest feature with on-screen text, writer/director Karim Ouelhaj appropriately sets the bleak tone. Belgium, 1997. Garbage bags were found containing severed pieces of women's bodies, courtesy of a serial killer dubbed The Butcher, until the murders suddenly stopped. Nobody knows what happened to cause the sudden stop, a question that haunts the people.

Twenty-years-later, the Butcher's children grapple with their fathers legacy and approach it in different ways. Felix (Benjamin Ramon) continues on his father's work of stalking women and brutally murdering them, while Martha (Eline Schumacher) tries focusing on her job while grappling with insecurities. When she's harassed and sexually assaulted at work, the docile sibling falls down the rabbit hole into the horrifying world her brother inhabits.

Schumacher exceptionally portrays Martha, capturing her bubbling frustrations as she's repeatedly disgraced and mistreated, waiting until home to vent her frustrations. She relies on her brother, terrifically played by Ramon, as the siblings care for each other in their co-dependent relationship with incestuous undertones. They're both haunted by the image of their blood-thirsty father, an inescapable element in their lives as fantasy and reality often blend together.

Ouelhaj offers no reprieve from the darkness, deliberately pacing the film within a seemingly unending cycle of misery. There's an unflinching depiction of violence throughout, with the use of a hammer being particularly difficult to watch amidst the brutalization of young women. Although what's offered is a moody examination of evil, the many forms it takes from the visceral to compliant silence. If viewers can stomach such a grim experience, there may be much to appreciate.

Megalomaniac made its UK Premiere at Grimmfest