Derry’s 26th Foyle Film Festival opened with the Irish première of Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves in the Brunswick Moviebowl on Thursday evening.
Movie goers from all over the city packed into Screen One in the Moviebowl and after a brief introduction from festival director and programmer, Bernie McLaughlin and Derry City Councillor, Gus Hastings, the lights dimmed the the film started to roll.
Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, it’s the story of a social pariah suspected of the inconceivable torture, and decapitation of several children, an out for blood and oh so very vengeful father, and a police officer who decides to take the law into his own hands.
With the aforementioned subject matter in mind, it’s easy to understand why some might find Big Bad Wolves a difficult watch. But the 110 minutes are made utterly enthralling by the most absurd black humour. Big Bad Wolves goes from being a thriller with a pinch of black comedy to something much more interesting.
The opening scene sees two young girls and a young boy playing. The music is so loud that I could almost feel my chair shake, and the fact that the sequence is depicted in slow motion only works to heighten the sense of dread.
When one of the girls and the young boy attempt to find the other girl, they discover a solitary red shoe – the girl has vanished. It’s a tremendous opening few frames, but alas Big Bad Wolves doesn’t quite deliver on this early promise.
Most of the action is shot in a basement. In this contained environment, the scenes develop almost like a play, and the exchanges between the police officer, the suspected child murderer and the vengeful father are toe curling and laugh out loud funny at the same time.
The grief experienced after the death of a child must be a pain like no other, but when a child is tortured and murdered – well, only the vengeful father can fully understand. What happens next is macabre and discomforting to say the least, yet Big Bad Wolves somehow manages to be hilariously funny at the same time. It is an interesting and alluring film.
Both good qualities, of course, but sometimes Aharon Keshales’ and Navot Papushado’s vision feels too derivative and predictable. The plot development is at times so utterly obvious that after 10 minutes you could predict what is going to happen half way through.
Plot holes are plenty, too. Religious Studies teacher Dror (played brilliantly by Rotem Keinan) is the prime suspect in the murders, but his complicity is never explained. A mysterious Arab on horseback appears twice in the film. For what reason? As the end credits roll, I remained stumped.