Movie Review: Strangled

By Thom Compton 11.11.2017

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Strangled (UK Rating: 15)

Right off the bat, if sexual violence in film format makes you uncomfortable, leave this one behind. Strangled, which hits UK cinemas on 17th November via Eureka Entertainment, is the true story of a serial killer in 1960s Hungry who killed multiple women, and sexual assaulted even more. More than that, though, it is an exposé on the corruption of the system, and one young detective's journey to get to the bottom of a case that may very well have been handled poorly.

Strangled opens with a confession. Reti, a simple father, admits to the rape and murder of a local woman. He is quickly tried, convicted, and jailed. In jail, he is subjected to horror at the hands of his fellow felons. Years later, a series of murders begins again in the town, prompting the local police to seek out the killer. However, a fresh, up and coming detective, played by Peter Barnai, seems to think this might not be a new criminal. He believes this is a continuation of the murder Reti took the fall for years before.

Strangled is a decent crime thriller marred by occasionally trying to be too similar to a slasher. The audience gets to follow the killer around and witness all of his depravity like a fly on the wall. This depravity is clear and unquestionable, as the killer strangles, rapes, and does other unspeakable things to his victims. Make no mistake; this should make you uncomfortable, as what viewers are asked to witness goes on for what seems like forever at times.


 
Reti's case isn't as simple, though. There is clearly some corruption involved in his confession, and this honestly makes for a better story. While the psycho killer with a horrifying obsession with sexual violence definitely will make your skin crawl, it also has some serious wrinkles. For one thing, every time the killer is stalking his victim, the music sounds like a poor man's "Halloween Theme."

Also, there's a question to be asked about why the audience has to see so much. Have you ever seen a movie where someone throws up, and it's on full display, and you ask yourself, "Why would you show me that?" Strangled does that, but instead of something as trivial as vomit, this is physical and sexual assault. Worse yet, after a while, it's repetitive, and never really pushes the story any further. By the final scene of depravity, it's easy to be so annoyed by the filmmaker's willingness to reinforce the killer's sadism that it feels sicker that they keep shoving it down your throat.

This constant repetition of ideas is also present in the crime thriller scenes, especially when the movie aims to prove the cops who handled Reti's case are terrible people. One of them is often seen drunk, and is even attempting an affair with Reti's sister in one of the most unintentionally funny sex scenes to come out in a long time. Still, this sub-plot manages to be much more interesting and less repulsive than the sequences with the killer.


 
However, Strangled is still a moderately interesting, if not occasionally frustrating experience. Dealing with the innocence plot line, it is fascinating watching how a group of police officers would frame a man largely to keep up with their so called quotas. The performances are also really good, although it would be hard to say any of them stand out. Also, not that it affects the final score, but the man who plays Reti and the actual killer look a lot alike. Like, so alike that sometimes it's hard to tell who you're watching.

By the end, though, it's hard to really recommend it. While it manages to provide smart commentary, it also provides some moments that feel like they are just meant to be shocking, for all the wrong reasons. The plot can be somewhat difficult to follow at times, and at other times it just feels misguided. This is a clear example of a piece with its heart in the right place, failing to really stick the landing it needs. Speaking of sticking the landing, it's hard to tell if the filmmakers think they ended this movie, because that actual ending leaves the fate of almost every major character in the balance. This doesn't feel ambiguous; it just feels like a cliff hanger.

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

It's hard to tell, honestly, whether Strangled wants to be shocking and insightful, or shocking and cruel. The only character that seems to win here is the killer, and perhaps it's meant to be another stark reminder of how endings can't always be happy. Sadly, this never manages to make you believe in a lot of its characters, and by the time it's all over, only one or two stand out as being objectively good. This sort of blunt nihilism can work if the point is well made, but Strangled fails to accomplish that for the most part.

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