An Impressive German Chiller on Netflix
Score 7/10 - Recommended
Posted by Kevin Nickelson | August 11th, 2022
Synopsis: A wealthy teen and his friends attending an elite private school uncover a dark conspiracy while looking into a series of strange supernatural events.
When a critic reviews any film, let alone horror films, there is a mental mindset of what to expect that is a blueprint (so to speak) of what to reasonably anticipate from the picture currently flickering before their eyes. Critics of a certain age will recall in their vast expanse of memory the very lines used every week by actor Jack Palance as he hosted the 1980s rendition of the tv series Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Mr. Palance, in full and intensely slow drawl, beckoned the viewer to join him as they venture into the world of “the strange.....the bizarre....unexpected. One can reasonably associate these words as elements in the making of a good chiller film as long as suitable care is performed by cast and crew.
“The Privilege”, by German production company Bavaria Fiction and directors Felix Fuchssteiner and Katharina Schöde, succeeds in the first two as strange and bizarre occurrences are taking place in the world of wealthy teen Finn Bergmann and his family. Reeling from the death of one sister as she claims to be saving him from.....something, Finn ends up drugged and in therapy. As he struggles to recover some semblance of a life, he begins to experience what appear to be hallucinations and supernatural events that cause him to question his sanity.
Along with two female classmates, the teen uncovers a conspiracy that is killing his friends and seems to involve a unique new drug being administered by a local psychiatrist. The drug utilizes a parasitic fungus derived from corpses.
The visual imagery is minimal yet suitably creepy in both lighting angle, quick camera cuts and the use of shadows. This cuts around the usual restrictions that hamper most modest budgeted fare such as this and presents something a bit more epic in feel than it has any right to be. Additionally, the few scenes involving conjured spirits come off as most impressive all things considered. Where the piece falters is in the area of the unexpected.
As he struggles to recover some semblance of a life, he begins to experience what appear to be hallucinations and supernatural events that cause him to question his sanity.
It telegraphs its punches at times as it borrows elements from other works, notably Robert Rodriguez’ 1998 cult classic chiller The Faculty, a similar control the rebellious teen scare show. It does not help that Fuchssteiner and Schöde resort to some fairly obvious tropes (the chase segments, the wild rave parties to show the teens as needing moral code guidance etc.) to propel the action.
Cast-wise, the actors acquit themselves nicely, though admittedly in stereotypical roles. Max Schimmelpfennig, as the troubled young hero, has a certain boyish charm and manages a modicum of internal self-torment. Lea van Acken as Finn’s lesbian friend is the stock free spirit in full-dyed hair and disdain for conformity. Lise Risom Olsen and Roman Knizka lend a bit of chill to the proceedings as the parents with secrets of their own to hide, but are let down a bit b under-written roles. Veteran scene-stealer Horst Janson (star of Hammer Films’ 1973 horror classic “Captain Kronos”) is a delight as the creepy, dying grandfather.
Location shooting in Berlin and in the highland area of Harz in northern Germany lend a disquieting atmosphere of bleak dread sorely needed for a horror film to have any pulse at all. Skillful use of low light and skewed camera angles by cinematographer Jakub Bejnarowicz and a brooding score by Philipp Fabian Kölmel help keep the audience interest from lagging. Even veteran horror geeks should be more than a bit unnerved by the cgi apparation effects created by the team of Thomas Hansen, David Laubsch and Jürgen Schopper. The séance scene late in the second half did have me on the edge of my seat a mite.
Overall, “The Privilege” is an enjoyable chiller show if you have the desire and capacity to indulge in the familiar aspects of the genre while being subjected to trauma that might have even Robert L. Ripley scratching his head if he were alive today.