ON EVIL GROUNDS (AUF BÖSEM BODEN) R2 DVD Review.
In April of this year I saw, almost by accident, Peter Koller's "On Evil Grounds" (aka "Auf Bösem Boden"). And I liked it so much I felt compelled to write a review. It's a nasty filthy serial killer thriller which also happens to be very, very funny if you like your jokes black without sugar.
And, of course, half a year later it was released on DVD in its home country of Austria.
Not newsworthy in itself, but then I learned a few weeks ago that the Austrian DVD release had a decent set of extras and was almost fully English-friendly, so I immediately ordered it.
It has arrived. And guess what?
There is a quote from my earlier review on the cover.
So with my vain ego tickled and me already liking the movie, what are the chances of this DVD-review turning out to be even remotely objective?
Find out after the break!
A Short History:
In 2004, Peter Koller made the short movie "Skrypt" with some friends. Both Peter and his star (and colleague from his job at the airport) Aleksandar Petrovic had no film schooling whatsoever, but found what knowledge they needed on the internet and just shot their movie.
Rather pleased with the end result, both noted that you don't really get rich and famous from making short films, and decided to make a long one.
Peter Koller started working on a script in 2005, knowing that he already had the following:
1: Some 30.000 Euro in savings.
2: A location to shoot (an abandoned factory owned by his grandfather)
3: A close circle of friends, consisting of both professionals and amateurs who were willing to participate.
Armed with his script and his copy of "Skrypt" he searched for an interested production company and, after many tries, found one in Novotny & Novotny.
In August of 2005 Aleksandar and Peter took three weeks off to shoot the movie, and two years of post-production later "Auf Bösem Boden" could be considered finished. At first it didn't get any distribution (earlier this year, there still wasn't a deal made for Austria itself) but it got great word-of-mouth on festivals, and is now so successful that the US remake rights have already been bought.
A young couple wants to buy an appartment but accidentally kill the real-estate agent. When trying to hide the body they fall prey to the appartment's current owner, who turns out to be a deranged serial killer (a hilarious Kari Rakkola). But both Romeo (Aleksandar Petrovic) and Julia (Birgit Stauber) are NOT content to be normal victims, not even when buried from the neck down...
Ehm... a far better synopsis can be found in my review.
I was tempted to pull the same joke as above and just refer you on to my review, AGAIN, but watching this movie for the second time and with a vastly different audience did produce some new insights.
Seeing this film while knowing how it all resolves should have taken away most of the tension, so what's left after that? The answer is: everything is still there. On repeat viewings this movie is just as funny and thrilling as it was when I first saw it.
However, this time my wife was sitting next to me and that can be a source of anxiety as well, albeit of a different nature. I warned her beforehand. I told her about the killings and rapes and other stuff she might not like (or even be offended by), but after showing her the first ten minutes she was hooked. And as it turned out, even though her tastes are very dissimilar from mine, she liked the movie as much as I did. She loved the crazy characters and the little tricks with intercutting, the western music, the sound jokes..
Meanwhile, sitting next to her, I was having a blast revisiting this.
There are just so many little things in this movie which are just clever, or cool, or hilarious. On a technical level its camerawork and editing look way more polished and finished than any first effort has a right to be.
And I still marvel at the actors in the three main roles. With any justice they will all become famous because of this film.
Fittingly enough the last time a movie blindsided me like this was Tom Tykwer's "Lola Rennt", and both films are intense, vibrant and willing to go all the way with their concept. And both can bear repeat viewings with ease.
Damn. This is a debut? It sure doesn't look like one!
"Auf Bösem Boden" treads on the dangerous edge between psychological horror and comedy, but does it as confidently as if everyone involved has been doing this for years.
Seriously, low-budget genre filmmaking does not get much better than this and this movie is a fine achievement which succeeds on all fronts. It delivers on thrills and jokes, and the three central characters are a sight to behold. I Can't wait to see what Peter Koller does next, and the same thing has to be said about all of the three stars of this film.
On to the DVD:
For a movie which had trouble getting distributed in its home country, it sure as hell got a lavish DVD release. And the first joke is already visible on the packaging: the back shows the same scene as the movie poster on the front does, but as seen from the other side. Like the movie it's simple, clever, and catches your eye.
The packaging also includes a booklet which describes in detail how the movie was made, as written by Peter Koller. A very informative and funny read, it's a shame this is in German only.
Putting in the first disc, I... GAAAAH!!!!
Damn you Peter Koller, that must surely be the ugliest menu image ever!
The screen's intention is good though: it asks if you want all other menus in German or English (a precursor to the general English-friendlyness of this edition). Still, using that picture is a hell of a way to ask this.
Brrr... Anyway, the first disc holds just the movie and the trailer. Video is good, a bit soft but I can remember it being like that in the cinema. Sound is good too, only German soundtracks are included (stereo and Dolby 5.1) but the optional English subs are excellent.
There is also a commentary track with director Peter Koller, special effects technician Peter Hacker and editor Benjamin Nolde, but unfortunately there are no subs on it. Most of what is discussed here can also be found on the huge "making-of" documentary on disc two, but they also discuss the selling of the movie, the US remake deal (with Vertigo), the contact they had with the Weinsteins after Fantasia...
Speaking of which, this is still a funny listen even if you don't speak German, because it sounds like “rubarbrubarbrubab TWITCHFILM rubarb TOHT BRAUN rubarbrubarb FANTASIA rubarbrubarb". Our site gets a LOT of loving in the first ten minutes, and it only stops when Nolde ( I think...) remarks something to the effect of "Come on guys, this is not a Twitchfilm.net advert...".
Disc two holds the extras and has AAARGH !!... the same start(l)ing menu image as disc one, thankfully also with the same question. Yes, disc two is 100% English-friendly!
The extras start with a whopping 90 minute "making-of" documentary, and as you can gather from the films' history it is quite interesting. How do you make a feature whithout any filmschooling or network within the industry? Watch and learn!
I was surprised to see that there were no stuntmen. All actors had to do their own fights and with a shooting schedule of only three weeks that is very impressive. Remember this was basically shot during Peter Koller's and Aleksandar Petrovic's holiday and they had to return to their dayjob afterwards, so there was no room for delays.
Also candidly shown are the auditions, and how they found Kari Rakkola who gave a very bad audition but got the madman role by his sheer presence.
Next are the deleted scenes, each of which is introduced by Peter Koller.
Make no mistake, these are all as good as the main feature but could not be used because of pacing issues or because last-minute script changes rendered them useless. Some of these are very, very funny though, and it is interesting to see footage that hasn't been color-corrected yet to fit the western-style "dusty" visuals of the final movie. What a difference does green make!
Next are two extras which can be considered to be funny but filler: an outtake compilation which is remarkably sedate (bar a near accident with an axe) and a compilation of "clap" shots. You know, take 1, take 2, take 700, those things.
Last and definitely not least is the short that started it all, "Skrypt" , and an interesting addition it is. Nowhere near as polished as "Auf Bösem Boden" and featuring a bizarre Twilight-Zone-ish story, it shows just how fast Peter Koller has grown as a filmmaker.
And that concludes my review for this DVD.
It's an excellent and mostly English-friendly package which is remarkably polished, especially for a movie which initially failed to get any distribution in its home country.
A nice surprise, just like the movie itself, this disc is very much recommended.