(director/writer: Karim Ouelhaj; cinematographer: Francois Schmitt; music: Simon Fransquet/Gary Moonboots; cast: Eline Schumacher (Martha), Wim Willaert (Jerome), Quentin Lasbazeilles (L’ouvrier), Benjamin Ramon (Felix), Pierre Nisse (Luc), Raphaelle Lubansu (Madame Connecci), Olivier Picard (Iblis); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Karim Ouelhaj, Nicolas George, Florence Saadi; XYZ films; 2022-Belgium-in French with English subtitles)

“Slickly made moody French horror tale from Belgium.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Karim Ouelhaj (“Parabola”/”Le Repas du Singe”) is the writer-director of this slickly made moody French horror tale from Belgium. It tells the slow-burn story of the adult children of a madman serial-killer noted for leaving bags of dismembered women along the roadsides. The photography of DP Francois Schmitt was sensational, making it an aove average film.

The Butcher of Mons story is about a notorious serial killer in Belgium during the late 1990s who was never caught and his identity still remains unknown (the killings stopped in 1997). Years later, the subservient Martha (Eline Schumacher) and the unstable dominant Félix (Benjamin Ramon), his children, are now grown up and live alone together in a spacious but rundown house. While the sicko boy carries on his father’s ‘work’ in private (killing only women), she’s a timid night janitor in a factory. At work she is routinely ridiculed and abused by the workers (Quentin Lasbazeilles) and (Win Willaet), but especially by the nasty taunting and abusive Luc (Pierre Nisse). One day she snaps and her inner demons take over.

While the tension from Martha’s situation rises, the film becomes increasingly brutal.

On the one hand it’s a critically refreshing arthouse psychological study, while on the other hand the violence explodes and the film’s appetite for horror is quenched in a bloody and cringe-worthy way.

It’s the kind of horror/crime drama made for the genre’s hardcore fans. The nihilistic amoral film has Ouelhaj frame a true story around one that is fiction.

It played at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 10/16/2022  GRADE: B+