German Angst is a movie for the “V/H/S,” “Zombieworld,” “The ABCs of Death” crowd in that it is technically a collection of three shorter films — “Final Girl,” “Make a Wish,” and “Alraune,” respectively — full of extreme violence and horrific fun. With “Final Girl” as a quiet, graphic, and personal revenge fantasy, “Make a Wish” as a broader social post-World War II commentary, and “Alraune” as a couple-driven, supernatural, be-careful-what-you-wish-for cautionary tale, as long as you don’t mind their collective graphic nature, German Angst really does have something for everyone.
“Final Girl” masterfully uses a young girl’s voice over musings about guinea pigs, their relationship with humans and how they react to medical procedures and physical stress, to parallel something she is about to do. Violent? Yes. But undeserved? Well, after watching the facial expressions and verbal protestations of her ostensible victim (or the pointed lack thereof) you, like our self-appointed protagonist, can be the judge of that. While its originally suspenseful pacing may start to feel tedious by the middle, the pay off at the end makes the stillness in the beginning even more chilling and intentional on second watch, and even though that end leaves us with many questions, it also gives us all the answers that we really need.
Unlike “Final Girl,” which is largely silent but German otherwise, second installment “Make a Wish” plays out in English, German, and sign language as well. It is definitely the most emotionally painful of the three shorts, making a devastating allegorical point about the myriad sociopolitical scars that exist the better part of a century after the end of the second world war by exploring the devastatingly difficult to watch collision of modern German Neo-Nazis and the aforementioned couple, at least one of whom is Polish as well as deaf. Without spoiling the story’s fantastical twist, “Make a Wish” evolves into something that initially seems like another opportunity for satisfying revenge, but ultimately curdles into a chilling violence-begets-violence blood fest instead.
However it is “Alraune,” a sort of “Rosemary’s Baby” meets “Eyes Wide Shut,” that is arguably the best and most violent vignette of the three. It’s one of those warning stories by the end of which curiosity has killed several cats. It all starts when Eden (Milton Welsh, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and his girlfriend Maya (Désirée Giorgetti, “House of Evil”) get into a fight, prompting him to seek adventure and affection elsewhere. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), Eden ends up getting far more than he’d bargained for. While the formula for “Alraune” is familiar (think “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98” from the first “V/H/S”) its execution is unique, especially in its violence, and also in the way it’s told (i.e., by Eden via voice over, with Maya as his audience, at a point in the story that, we later learn, is its middle rather than its end). Many people have many opinions about the effectiveness of voice overs as a narrative technique in general, Walsh’s voice is positively enchanting, and his editorialization of his experience is well written and compellingly told. One of the deaths (one word: Bathroom) in “Alraune” is among the most inventive, drawn out, and visceral that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve not only frequently thought about it since, but would jump at the chance to watch a longer version of the same story if one were ever to exist. Such specific vulnerable, intimate, and explicit violence, along with the practical effects that bring it to life and the predication of its plot on natural and relatable human drives (adventure, community, recognition, sex) make “Alraune” the stand out story of the three that comprise German Angst, and one that will stay with its viewers for a long, long time.
All in all, German Angst is a creative and unique trio of thrills that fans of any similar anthology series or abrupt violent style is sure to enjoy. I personally am not super into gore, and still found these three — especially that last one — a fun and frightening time that I’m sure to recommend (and rewatch, if I can stomach it).