Monday, October 08, 2012


Directed by: Dick Maas
Netherlands, 1988
Horror, 104 min

Around this time a couple of years back dutch director, Dick Maas, made a pretty decent return to the horror genre with his customary horror themed thrillers with the movie Sint (Saint) 2010. Sint tells the tale of what happens when Saint Nick comes to kidnap children of Amsterdam and the police stand powerless against the mystic entity.  In the role of The Saint, we see long time Maas collaborator Huub Stapel, who has acted as something of a red thread through the majority of Maas work.             
Back in the eighties, Maas was something of an interesting name for European genre, mixing American slasher aesthetics with thriller, black comedy and horror themes and sticking them in his native Netherlands. The Lift, Amsterdamned and Do Not Disturb to name a few, where damned entertaining pieces in their time, and you can certainly see how they have influenced films that came in their wake… Now it’s finally time to revisit the canals of Amsterdam when Shameless Screen Enterainment release his seminal film Amsterdamned in a spanking new release filled with bonus goodies.
Police inspector Eric Visser [Huub Stapel] has his work cut out for him, when a serial killer is stalking innocent victims who just happen to be in the vicinity of the Amsterdam canals. Without any solid evidence apart from a bunch of stiff’s in the morgue, time is running out for Visser to apprehend the mad man of the Amsterdam canals.

It’s a slasher, in water! What else would you expect from a movie that takes place in Amsterdam! You use what you can, and Maas plays it by the book. Hiding a serial killer behind a diving suit and having him swim the canals of Amsterdam is pure genius!
I love the way this movie establishes its antagonist. As the credits fade in and out, we take the classic slasher p.o.v. whilst he swims through the canals, peeking up out of the water at restaurants and Amsterdam’s infamous red light district in search of a victim. It’s setting us up for the initial attack, where a prostitute is stalked and killed by the mystery murderer. Left standing at the foot of the bridge is the cranky old bag lady that witnesses the violent slaying… Yeah, there’s no question about what this movie is; Classic slasher with a new brilliant twist – well it was new back in 88.

Cut to present the protagonist. A goody two shoes detective who lives with his teenage daughter, has great parenting skills, but is a bit of a Joe as he steps in the cat’s bowl. As the gooey cat food squelches between his feet, we can already like him, as he’s not perfect, he has flaws too. He finally arrives at the scene of the crime and the bag lady claims that a “monster” killed the prostitute. It’s going to be a tricky case isn’t it.
Exposition is presented in dialogue scenes, which actually work pretty neat, as we learn just how great a cop Visser really is. Such as the intuition, patience and luck that helped him solve the murder of a quizmaster three years earlier, a case with no leads at all. It’s important, as this intuition, patience and luck will obviously come back later on in this seemingly impossible case of the murdering diver.
There’s also a fun little subplot focusing on Visser’s love thirst. As his wife walked out on him, with another guy and moved to France, Eric’s desperately on the search for love, which has him flirting and chatting up women all the time. It’s a fun detail that gives some dimension to his character, and then he meet’s Laura [Monique van de Ven, who you may recognize from a few early Paul Verhoven films]. A woman who he will stop at nothing to have!

Amsterdamned also uses a little subplot concerning Eric’s daughter and Willie, a child amateur psychic, who team up in an attempt to find the killer as the give her dad more free time to spend with her. It never really sums up too much or affects the main narrative in anyway, but it’s kind of naively cute.
Amsterdamned has a fair body count and a couple of surprise kills, most of them off screen, but effective. One especially raw scene sees the diver ram his knife up through a small floatie raft. The knife places itself between the legs of a suave girl in a bikini before she’s forcefully dragged towards the razor sharp blade, a classic cringer. Being a thriller with elements of horror and suspense, there’s also a couple of great genre correct jump scares one a delicious Jaws homage.

Mystery builds up through the investigation plot used, and finally we reach the last act, where all is prepared for grand climax. And it is a grand climax, which involves races against the clock, and a last moment surprise! True to Slasher formula the killers identity is revealed, as are the motifs for killings, and the genre traits don’t stop there!
Amsterdamned comes with a bunch of extras, such as Amsterdamned – The city, the film – the makers, several original trailers, image gallery and a show reel of new Shameless titles from their back catalogue and soon to be released gems – such as Pupi Avati’s La casa dalle finestre che ridono (The House With the Laughing Windows) 1976. 

The Amsterdam Ripper has a brand new flipper! Dick Maas Amsterdamned is released on DVD in the UK on the 22nd of October.


Nigel M said...

Wonder if this film borrowed stuff from The Embalmer / Il mostro di Venezia - the killer frogman in Venice movie.

CiNEZiLLA said...

That's a damned good question Nigel! I never even thought of it, but have always considered Maas, as the kind of director who looks affectionately at Italian genre. There's a lot of Gialli and if you watch the Police/motorbike chase in Amsterdamned, it certainly has something of a poliziesco feel to it.

Good one!

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