Amsterdamned (1988)

Be glad you're afraid. It means you're still alive.
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Amsterdamned - Be glad you're afraid. It means you're still alive.

As the end of the eighties loomed, slasher movie makers began to struggle to find original methods and motivations for serial killers to deprive the innocent of the rest of their life. To keep it real, before the later decades resorted to supernatural fast food mascots and murderous baked goods, writer and director Dick Maas (known for The Lift and Saint) came up with the idea of a killer scuba diver lurking in the canals of Amsterdam. Whether this was a stroke of genius or a desperate clutch at a drinking tube is up for debate but the title, Amsterdamned, is undeniably genius.

Coming from Holland himself, Dick Maas gives Amsterdamned a very European feel reminiscent of the Italian gialli of the same era but with an injection of Netherlands cheekiness. As is often the case with violent murder mystery shows of European descent, there is one standout scene of brutality bolstered with an uncomplicated mystery, a lot of mystery solving dialogue and an irrational side-story to fill in any gaps.

Dick Maas uses the best kill as the first kill in the first scene after the credits. This only exposes itself as the best kill in the scene following the actual crime so admittedly it is the aftermath of the kill which is the spectacular part. Seeing the bloody corpse of a dead hooker suspended from a bridge being dragged over the roof of a glass topped boat full of distressed children is a sight to be relished. Rather than setting the standard though this simply serves to set the bar quite high and the rest of the film pales in comparison.

The mystery solving dialogue is provided by detective Eric Visser (Huub Stapel - known for The Lift and Saint). Detective Visser's skill set is trying to look cooler than Officer Frank Poncherello while maintaining ruggedness, investigating places that co-workers have told him to investigate, making obvious observations, and throwing in the occasional one-liner. All of this while trying to penetrate a civilian female diver that crossed his line of investigation who he decides can help with police work. He doesn't come across as the greatest detective and freely admits that his job involves being patient until you get lucky (either with a raging clue or with a lady). Maybe this is a reflection of the lawful nature of Amsterdam citizens and probably some pro-marijuana propaganda. Visser’s luck reliant detective techniques of investigation pay off when, after some patience, it luckily turns out that the mystery isn’t too mysterious and his newfound lady friend can easily solve the case while he smokes and looks cool.

The irrational side-story is provided by the adolescent daughter of Visser and her psychic pal, Willy, who are determined to solve the murders themselves. Despite having some uncanny psychic abilities and the dubbed voice of a thirty year old, Willy doesn’t contribute to the crime resolution or the story.

The writing tries to add an element of light heartedness. The intentional humour and subtle yet abundant innuendo relies on pies to the face, mother-in-law-jokes, old people in flippers and a snorkel confessing to crimes, dubious stains and talk of slots and weapons. The real comedy is unintentionally provided by the script. Shoddy writing or losses in translation often provide this kind of amusement in this era and genre. “16 stab wounds of which at least 8 were fatal” defies logic but is delivered without a single smirk or raised eyebrow. Surely only Sean Connery can die more than once. As is also common, there are numerous vocal exchanges where far too much descriptive information is traded.

The ending is quite a cliché and springs out of nowhere rather than springing from a place towards which suspicions have been pointed. It is as if something more traditional was tacked on at the end to allow the movie to be unambiguously categorised. Despite this, the big reveal is only a few minutes and is more of a slight disappointment rather than a movie destroying flaw.

Amsterdamned is a fine mix of European thriller and traditional US slasher circa the seventies. The setting brings the originality but this doesn’t provide enough to raise the story above mediocrity. The direction raises the overall film a few rungs higher up the slasher ladder by maintaining the momentum. Whenever there is a risk of a lull in interest a murder or an action sequence is thrown in. A motorbike chase and a quite epic speedboat chase (which is maybe too long at the 8 minute mark) change the vibe from slasher to James Bond but doesn’t disrupt the flow. The music is very slashery and helps reinforce the horror at times when the violence is not so violent yet the killer is still up to his murderous tricks. The beginning is great, the ending is unsatisfying, what happens in between is enjoyable enough to maintain interest but probably won’t be memorable.
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Categories: Slasher Movies

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