Saturday, October 16, 2021

AMSTERDAMNED (1988) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 14
Total First Time Views: 9
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $709.10

Amsterdamned (1988) d. Dick Maas (Netherlands) (113 min) (1st viewing)

A murderer has the famed Dutch city in a tizzy, snorkeling his way through the murky canals and slashing unsuspecting passersby onshore and off. Calloused city cop Eric Visser (Huub Stapel) is assigned to the case and, along with his former friend/rival John (Wim Zomer), dives deep into the mystery to stop the madman before he strikes again.

If you would have told me at the beginning of October that I would be raving about a movie called “Amsterdamned” directed by the guy who gave us De Lift about a killer elevator (as well as its 2001 English language redux The Shaft starring a pre-stardom Naomi Watts), I would have told you to take a paddle. But here we are and such is the case. Hats off to blood brother Gert Verbeeck for encouraging this particular View.

What makes this slasher/giallo so special is its intrinsic sense of place, a homespun yarn so specific to a certain geographical location that the city itself becomes as vivid a character as any two-legged ones. Writer/director Maas has captured Amsterdam in such immersive and immediate fashion that the film serves as much as a travelogue as thriller, and one can’t help but boggle at how genuine it all seems. In the same way that 28 Days Later and 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers so authentically captured their surroundings of London and San Francisco, respectively, viewers feel an uncanny sense of being transported to an alternate reality where a scuba-suited psychopath is actually running amok with the local cops hot on his neoprene tail. Unlike many English-language dubs, most of the vocal performances are provided by their onscreen counterparts, complete with thick Dutch accents that only add to the authenticity.

While the novelty of the killer’s wardrobe choice (complete with belt knives and spear guns as his preferred methods of dispatch) should be enough to set it apart from its late slasher boom brethren, what really makes Amsterdamned a must-see is a prolonged speedboat chase that can honestly stand proudly alongside any 007 effort in terms of sheer wows per second. The fact that they were doing it on a fraction of the budget only makes it the more impressive.

Stapel makes for a hilariously deadpan hero, barely blinking an eye when his obnoxious pre-teen daughter points his service revolver at him in the tub or when she tells his captain that “he’s probably masturbating in the bathroom.” I mean, this is a single dad we can all root for! He’s just as unflappable questioning witnesses, observing autopsies, romancing sexy museum guides (Turkish Delight’s Monique van de Ven), or pursuing murder suspects at 60 mph on sea and land. Maas and Stapel serve as Netherlands’ counterpart to such artistic partnerships as John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, having worked together over a half dozen films.

In addition to the aforementioned chase sequence, Maas does an excellent job of keeping the action moving, whether it be in the enjoyably macabre murder sequences (a bloody body hanging from a bridge and dragged over a tour boat’s glass ceiling kicks things off in grand fashion) or the zippy police patter that recalls the best 1940s screwball comedies. The left-field reveal of the killer’s identity might feel a bit like a cheat, but by that point, the flick has earned so much goodwill that you’re unlikely to care. I was smiling throughout and looking forward to watching it again soon.

Fun fact: Maas directed the music video for Dutch rock band Golden Earring’s 1982 smash single, “Twilight Zone,” as well as the catchy title track for this film by Lois Lane, featuring the refrain, “Amsterdamned, Amsterdamned, Amsterdamned / Ooooh / This place is damned / This is Amsterdamned.”

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