Friday, September 30, 2011

Invite the Devil Home

Director: Michael Steiner
Writers: Michael Steiner, Stefani Japp, Michael Sauter
Starring: Roxane Mesquida, Nicholas Ofczarek, Carlos Leal
2010 | Switzerland | Not Rated | 110 mins

Isolation. Cabin fever. Sexual frustration. In the Swiss Alps legend has it that lonely mountaineers had fashioned a broom, straw, and some rags into a doll to keep them company. The Devil took pity on them so he made their doll come to life. It became the Sennentuntschi. She cleaned, cooked, made coffee, and was used and abused by these men for their pleasure. But not without a price, as the Sennentunschi took her revenge and killed, skinned, and fashioned the men into straw-stuffed dolls.

1975. A small mountainside village. During the funeral procession for a priest who committed suicide a mysterious and mute young woman (Roxane Mesquida) wanders in out of nowhere dirty, frantic, and seemingly possessed. Sebastian Reusch (Nicholas Ofczarek), the local cop, quickly takes her in despite the judging of the church community whom deem her a witch possessed by the Devil. Reusch believes in innocent until proven guilty. With the mystery of trying to find out who this woman is, Reusch discovers an article from an unsolved murder case involving three mountaineers in 1950. And the prime suspect appears to be the same woman, appearing to have not aged at all. Earlier on though, a goat farmer (Andrea Zogg), his mute son (Joel Basman), and a hired hand (Carlos Leal) working higher up in the Alps drunkenly put the legend to the test and when they awake from their absinthe-fueled slumber they find a woman amongst them, the Devil having given them a Sennentuntschi. But a curse deeper than that just of the Sennentunschi lurks over the entire mountainside, and will Reusch discover it before it's too late? 

Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps is a gripping, twisting and turning mystery thriller. Michael Steiner finely crafts a film that layers on atmosphere, suspense, intrigue, and a spider's web of a tale that if you're not paying attention it will leave you confused and dazed. Sennentuntschi weaves together all the pieces of the puzzle to tell its tale so we are delved into three different times throughout the film at different moments. And if you don't notice these changes in the characters' wardrobe you may think they are taking place simultaneously, and this will not help you in figuring out the mystery and will leave your head hurting. Steiner, and the other writers, use these flashbacks to anchor the story and mystery and to engage the viewer into discovering the truth along with, or before, Reusch.

Intricately detailed, this type of plot and story with its twists and turns would be horrendously butchered say if this was an M. Night Shyamalan production, but everything connects and works. And the twists unravel with substance to the plot rather than throwing a left hook out of nowhere. The actors turn in great performances and Roxane Mesquida especially gives a lot of depth to every nuance which straddles the line between childlike curiosity and predatory survivalist instinct. Accompanied by some gorgeous cinematography, rich locations, and a great and brooding score, Sennentunschi: Curse of the Alps is a thrilling labyrinthine mystery worth seeking out. 

All contents copyright 2011 Tyler Baptist

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