A couple of hours on a remote, subtitled Norwegian prison island for young delinquents doesn’t sound the most appealing of prospects.
But King of Devil’s Island rapidly proves intense and rewarding viewing, thoroughly absorbing as you watch with mounting horror as brutality slowly but surely provokes its predictable response.
Today it seems the island prison is a model of green and forward-thinking; in 1915, it was home to a cruel and repressive regime. Governor Håkon, beautifully played by Stellan Skarsgard, is a firm disciplinarian, but at least he has principles and the redeeming quality that at least he genuinely believes he is doing the right thing.
Housemaster Bråthen (Kristoffer Joner), however, is a corrupt, abusive and sadistic bully. When new boys Erling (Benjamin Helstad) and Ivar (Magnus Langlete) arrive, Bråthen finally comes up against youngsters unwilling to acquiesce... and herein lies the film’s brooding brilliance.
The movie is inspired by a real-life rebellion on the island, and director Marius Holst ratchets up the tension to the maximum as we await the final spark for the horrors we know will happen.
Superb performances all round make this a grimly-enthralling film, powerful and haunting, a mesmerising study of just what happens when a bully pushes too far.
Completely silly but equally watchable in a very different way is Dennis Quaid’s stint as small-town mortician Ely Vaughn in director Martin Guigui’s grisly thriller, Beneath The Darkness.
We know from the start that Ely is a psycho. He kicks off the movie by burying alive the school teacher’s cheating hubby. Besides, he’s pretty much got psycho written right across his forehead. Grovelling to the police, he snarls, sneers and leers at everyone else. It’s a wonder he wasn’t locked up years ago.
Most normal people would give him the widest possible berth, but this being that kind of film, there’s a group of dopey teenagers desperate to get inside his house. Mistakenly, they think he’s got a ghost in there. The truth is rather worse...
Rental courtesy of www.blockbuster.co.uk.