DISCLAIMER: This is not a review of "Big Bad Wolves", as the writer did not actually finish the film. This is merely an explanation of the reasons that caused him to jump ship early, so to speak.
This film fanatic has been trying to think of the last time he got up and actually walked out of a film mid-screening. It has been a very long time, if ever. Sadly, such an occurrence happened just last evening. And the culprit? The future Magnet Releasing(which is part of Magnolia Pictures) release "Big Bad Wolves" which screened its second and final time at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival.
The film begins with police officers administering a beating to a schoolteacher. Apparently, somebody saw him in the vicinity of where a child was abducted. Shortly after, the little girl's body is found in an abandoned field. The body is headless; the legs are tied to the chair, underpants pulled down the legs. It is a disturbing sight.
The father of this particular victim decides to take matters into his own hands, kidnapping the teacher and locking him up in the basement of a house he purchased just for the sake of having a location to exact his torture. The film then makes it a point to describe each and every sick thing this killer did to his victims. The father's plan is to do the same to this man until he confesses, and tells him where his daughter's head is.
Everything is played for laughs, right down to the gruesome torture scenes(which includes toenail removal). Mostly the filmmakers rely on a sense of irony to reiterate the comedy. Those elements are somewhat amusing, but not entirely funny. And this writer would never be able to fully sit back, relax and enjoy the madness.
The reason for that is because so much of the film's setup is rooted in the disgusting act of sexual assault, and in this case, sexual assault against a child. This writer had the same issues with the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street", when the filmmakers turned Freddy Krueger into a pedophile. Violence certainly has its place in cinema, and even shocking or relatively extreme violence has an air of responsibility behind it. But when it comes to sexual assault, this moviegoer prefers his films stay away from such a subject.
Of course, some filmmakers prefer to tackle such issues head on, and that may be better than pretending the issue doesn't exist. But if a film is going to include such a violent act, this guy isn't going to have an easy time laughing his way through it. Obviously, this is just a personal preference. In tonight's screening, the majority of the audience was laughing their way through the torture(literally) and its mishaps.
So what was it that actually somebody who can't recall ever walking out of a motion picture to grab his stuff and weave his way through the seated masses? At every moment of the first hour and some change(probably a little more than half-way through) that this writer saw, the accused schoolteacher maintains his innocence. And as he is being tortured it becomes clear: it doesn't matter if he committed the heinous crimes or not. He was tortured either way. Violence just begat more violence. Whatever conclusion this film came to, it wasn't going to satisfy. Everyone was going to lose. There would be no winners.
There is one moment in the film that tries to make a joke out of the fact that the cop and the father are torturing the schoolteacher step-by-step in the same way he did towards the little girls. The moment is played for laughs because neither one wants to sexually assault the man. When one thinks about, that is probably the most offensive moment of all. The film makes light of the victimized children in that moment, and that goes far beyond the whole 'dark' M.O. that the filmmakers are aspiring too.
This scribe can't fault the Chicago International Film Festival entirely. After all, most the audience seemed to respond really positively to "Big Bad Wolves." This guy was the first one to leave, followed by another couple of ladies. Everyone else seemed to be settled in for the finish. The only thing worth questioning is how such a film wouldn't inspire some sort of warning in the Festival Schedule. Two other films on the docket this year have warnings about extreme violence after the plot synopsis. This festival goer would be scared to see those films. If "Big Bad Wolves" goes to the places it goes and doesn't inspire a warning, he would hate to see where another Festival selection could go. And sure, he's a little bitter. Having to walk out of a film before its conclusion should only occur once in a blue moon; preferably not at all. Well, the moon is blue now, so let's get it back to the normal color stat.