‘You’re a sadistic misogynist and I’m letting you live out your dreams.’
The lineage of this Danish medical horror story goes back to 1970s paranoia pieces like The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Coma, Parts and Traitement du Choc – in which sinister medical conspiracies keep the rich young and active by harvesting the blood or body parts of the poor, in a modern take on the Countess Bathory myth. It’s also a throwback to those women-chained-up-and-abused-in-a-dirty-basement movies we mostly got fed up with ten to fifteen years ago – and I for one don’t particularly relish a revival of the form, though this is at least directed with an eye for suspense and the downer mid-section is a set-up for the cathartic Island of Lost Souls-style last act in which people mostly get what they deserve.
Dr Isabel Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen), a frozen-faced Rachel Roberts lookalike scientist, has developed a rejuvenation process she’s selling to wealthy men, all the while trying to expand the research so it works on women too (ie: her). An unusual, if budget-friendly aspect is that Ruben hasn’t quite got her mad science perfected and operates on a shoestring in an unhygienic factory she’s had to blackmail businessman Thomas Lindberg (Anders Heinrichson) into letting her use, and the only minions she can run to are a pair of sickies, the Dog (Morten Holst) and the Pig (Jens Andersen), who are in the racket not for science or the money but because they relish the chance to abuse women en masse.
Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen), Thomas’s wife, stumbles over what’s going on and is caged by the Dog, who brands her shoulder with a serial number then pisses on the wound – signalling that the film is about to deliver several reels of begging and pleading, slobbering, beating, dental abuse, mouth-stapling, whipping, etc. Screenwriter Sissel Falsgaard Thomsen slips in that Mia is into BDSM, perhaps indicating that she’s better placed to put up with the glum torturer than the women in the other cages. Holst is a supremely hateful villain – but the whole set-up is too grimy, depressing and protracted (it’s 107 minutes long) to be worth most audiences’ while. Directed by Jens Dahl, co-writer of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher.