Directed by: Karim Ouelhaj
Written by: Karim Ouelhaj
Starring: Eline Schumacher, Wim Willaert, Benjamin Ramon, Pierre Nisse, Raphaëlle Lubansu, Olivier Picard, Catherine Jandrain
Synopsis: Martha and Félix are children of the Butcher of Mons, a notorious Belgian serial killer from the 1990s. While Martha lives an unstable life riddled with insecurities, her brother, crushed by the family legacy, takes over their father’s killings. Harassed and violently assaulted at work, Martha falls into madness and goes through the looking glass into the strange and terrifying world inhabited by her brother.
Grimmfest say: A sulphurous study of the legacy of abuse, and of the iniquities of a monstrous, murderous father upon his damaged children, this is a film that pulls no punches and refuses to let you look away. Unapologetically confrontational in approach, it almost challenges the viewer to engage with it at first; the objective eye and cold sense of distance seemingly offering nothing and no one to connect to. But the claustrophobic atmosphere pulls you in anyway, like one of those suffocating fever dreams you can’t escape. Heavily stylised, with amazingly detailed production design and startling cinematography, the film moves effortlessly between grimy, gritty, squalid social realism, and a kind of surreal expressionist nightmare gothic, all underpinned by a murkily oppressive guitar drone and electronica soundtrack. It’s anchored in recognisable human reality by an astonishing lead performance from Eline Schumacher, who is able to shift between heartbreakingly vulnerable and sympathetic and utterly monstrous within the same scene. Brutally violent, emotionally gruelling, and cruel, it’s a film that most definitely contains images and sequences that some viewers may find offensive or triggering, but this is bold, bravura filmmaking, and some of those images are going to stay with you forever.
What I'm expecting: So... I think it's safe to say that Megalomaniac is going to be a tough watch! With brutal violence, emotionally gruelling, and content that may be offensive or triggering, this isn't going to be for everyone, and I feel this has the potential to become the most divisive and controversial film of Grimmfest this year. It's often these more realistic horror films (ones which deal with real-life traumas) that are the most frightening and stay with us the longest. However, this is a hard film type to get right: if it's crass about the subject of trauma, or relishes too much in its bloodshed, then it could easily become a very unpopular film with audiences—even Grimmfest's hardcore horror fans. There needs to be a certain degree of sensitivity to how Megalomaniac approaches its themes, and the characters, no matter how repulsive their actions, have to have a measure of sympathy for them. Grimmfest's words on lead actress Eline Schumacher are encouraging, and I am intrigued to see in what way the film has been "stylised" and how it fits into the substance of Karim Ouelhaj's story.