Lord knows why I’ve been sitting on the DVD that German director Michael Kosakowski handed me at the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival last October. It played at AFI’s Silver Spring (Maryland) theater at the midnight show on October 12th (I was too tired to stay awake that night), and has had numerous screenings since (including it’s NYC Halloween premiere postponed courtesy of Hurricane Sandy). Earlier this week Cult Epics, a Los Angeles company owned by Nico B., acquired the U.S. and Canadian distribution rights, and a theatrical release here will be in April, followed by a DVD release on June 18th.
Anyway, the film handles the director’s penchant, since 1996, of “asking people with different backgrounds about their murder fantasies.” Hmmm, seems interesting/controversial in light of the recent uproar about gun control in the U.S.A. Kosakowski not only inquired about these reveries, but offered them a chance to stage them as films. Weird? Yup. Oh, he had one condition. They had to act in the films themselves….
The feature actually began life as a video installation in the Munich Hall for International Contemporary Art (Lothringer 13) in early 2007. These little non-snuff shorts are now condensed and edited together, showcasing deaths by suffocation, dog mauling, gunfire, poisoning, being kicked off a mountain or in front of a bus, a bride’s premature burial, etc., with the director posing follow-up questions to his “actors” a decade later. The people (about 60 had a hand in the dozen or so “stories”) came up with some unusual mayhem and quite interesting interpretations of the human psyche, as one perpetrator explains (what if I wanted) “to get rid of someone I didn’t like.”
The snippets run the gamut from simple and fun-filled revenge offerings to crude machete hackings and vicious shootings to elaborate, if amateurish and bloody (fake, of course), slaughters. Many of these seem to be inspired from other films the “killers” probably watched—the kind that wrapped mutilated bodies up in big rugs—or some unusual dream/nightmare they experienced or even personal experience. The film was shot on location in Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, and Serbia, where wars affected some of the stories. Lots of intriguing revenge theories, especially against the post office, are discussed. Crude, brutal, comic, subtle. And, long before the Newtown massacre, most of the talking heads express agitated, even nasty, retribution if their children are harmed or worse. “When it comes to children, that could provoke the strongest reactions.” No doubt these prescient comments will provoke anguish for many watching. There’s also discussion about the moral and ethical use of torture, which ties into the various remarks leveled against its use as interpreted in “Zero Dark Thirty.”
As the film moves along, you find that these are rather intelligent people the director has chosen (only at the end will you learn their occupations). A discussion on profound immorality turns interesting in relation to one short about a suicide bomber. “Evil is what you become when there’s no out,” and that defining oneself as evil is “admitting one’s own mistakes.”
One of Kosakowski’s players takes an aggressive approach that might interest the National Rifle Association mindset. “I don’t subscribe to the theory that it’s worse than it used to be, due to video games or violent films. I believe it lies within people themselves.” And with the billions of people in the world, I wonder if there is any solution to correcting mankind’s moral center (especially in the United States), whether assault rifles and/or guns are banned. Despite all the increasing brouhaha about Second Amendment rights, is it even possible to cover all the immoral, immature, or mentally unstable bases in a population so large that we can avoid the next mass killing?
“Zero Killed” is a troubling document that will upset many in its depiction of a society addicted to violence, but hopefully lead to much-needed discussion on what solutions are possible. Watching this film can be depressing if looked as just presenting the 1990s film exercises, but uplifting—thanks to Kosakowski’s additional decade-later footage—for vibrant discourse by the storytellers that follow.
Hot topics abound in “Zero Killed.” A contemplative step above Psych 101, and perhaps a distant cousin to last year’s off-putting “Compliance,” with occasionally blood-soaked, squirm-inducing moments. It’s not a must-see, but maybe a should-see, as long as you’re in the right frame of mind and emotionally prepared.