Much like the title would suggest Árpád Sopsits’ ‘Strangled’ is a taut psycho-thriller. Loosely based on real events in which the Hungarian town of Martfü was terrorised by a serial killer throughout the 1960s. Whilst an innocent man was imprisoned for the first of the murders, the story follows a young police officer who is determined to ensure justice is served, despite heavy political pressure to ensure that the tenuous communist rule appears infallible in their administration of law and order.
Synopsis: Based on real-life events, this psycho-thriller is set in the provincial Hungary of the 1960s, when a series of atrocious murders shock the small town of Martfü. A psychotic killer is on the prowl, who continues to slaughter young women while an innocent man is wrongly accused and sentenced for crimes he could never have committed. A determined detective arrives on the scene and soon becomes obsessed with the case while under pressure from the prosecutor to see a man hang. Stuck in the suffocating social, political and psychological world of socialist Hungary, we soon find ourselves entangled in a web of intricate conspiracy and disturbing drama.
The first thing that hits you about this movie is the brooding and atmospheric visuals. Oozing style and atmosphere from every shot, the film wastes no time in drawing you in to its intriguing story. From a stylistic perspective, ‘Strangled’ is nothing short of a masterpiece. The 1960s fashions and technology lend themselves well to an era where crime fighting, and resolution, came from good old-fashioned police work, rather than relying on technology and lab reports; this in itself makes the films twists and turns come at an organic pacing within the story.
As the film progresses you begin to feel a natural tension between the killer and the team of police tracking him.
The film covers a lot of ground throughout its 2-hour run time, from its more typical serial killer murder enquiry plots, to its political commentary. Despite highlighting many of the injustices of the time, as well as how the disorganisation of the countries services failed to protect those most vulnerable, it never becomes self-indulgent. This is, at heart, a fully committed psycho-thriller with pacing and structure of many western comparisons. Indeed, whilst the story, no doubt constraint by its ‘real-life’ inspirations is somewhat linear, with the character reveal and plot twists not being all that profound, what sets it apart is simply the quality of film making. Characters, actors and camera work are all sublime, and again, I don’t mind reminding you of what a masterpiece this film is from those angles.
As with all psycho-thrillers the antagonist needs to be the most memorable character of the lot – that he was based on a real-life murderer even more so. Rest assured, whilst I don’t want to name the actor/character for risk of spoilers, he does a frighteningly good job. Whilst the violence in the film is limited by horror standards, the horrific scenes of sexual violence towards his female victims are exactly that, horrific. The shooting of these scenes is very ‘raw’, putting you amidst acts of rape, assault and necrophilia without ever loosing poise or becoming gratuitous. Whilst you most likely know of the films overall conclusion, the investment of the viewer in the characters ensures you will want to see for yourself that justice is indeed served.
Overall, if you are a fan of serial killer stories then checking out ‘Strangled’ upon its release this week should be a no brainer. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and kudos to Eureka entertainment for sharing their love for high quality foreign cinema with us. ‘Strangled’ is available from all major retailers from 05/02/2018.