Big Bad Wolves

Cabin in the Kibbutz

by Glenn Lovell

Israel is the last place one would go looking for a tantalizing serial-killer mystery like “Se7en” or “Silence of the Lambs.” Given its geopolitical makeup, it’s not surprising that the country is known more for its documentaries and star-crossed romances.

Last year’s excellent “S#x Acts,” about a lonely, promiscuous teenager, proved a startling departure. So, too, does the current “Big Bad Wolves,” which combines Grimm Fairy Tale, pitch-black comedy, and the capture and torture of a suspected pedophile-killer.

The latter element situates “Wolves” somewhere between Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking “M” and the Oscar-nominated “Prisoners,” wherein a Pennsylvania father methodically tortures a young man he believes is responsible for the disappearance of his daughter.

In “Wolves,” co-directed and written by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, an even more heinous Boogie Man is making the rounds, one whoPoster tortures little girls, then beheads them with a rusty saw. A burly Israeli police detective (Lior Ashkenazi) known for his extra-legal methods thinks he has the culprit in his sights, a  nebbish-y religious (!) teacher named Dror (Rotem Keinan). But before the cop can scare a confession out of the guy, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of the killer’s latest victim, steps in.

Most of “Wolves” (now available on PPV) takes place in a remote cabin outfitted with basement dungeon, where at first the cop and the father find a common purpose. How does the father expect to throw a scare into Dror, who has taken more than one police beating? Simple, the father explains, “maniacs are afraid of maniacs.” In other words his bag of tricks rivals that of the killer.

Were “Big Bad Wolves” but another entry in the torture-porn sub-genre, there wouldn’t be much to discuss here. We could shrug off the directors as a couple of would-be Eli Roths. What sets the movie apart are its wry political asides (police corruption is obviously rampant, the cabin is the perfect getaway because it’s surrounded by “savage” Arabs) and its wicked injections of humor, which play like Sholem Aleichem by way of Stephen King.

One of the running jokes: Just as the crazed Gidi gets going with hammer and pliers, he’s called away by one interruption after another ‒ a guilt-tripping mother, a passing horseman, the cake in the oven. And, finally, Gidi’s father comes knocking. The old man (Doval’e Glickman) feigns shock for about five minutes before joining in the fun … with techniques honed in the Israeli Army.

Yes, quite a find for genre buffs ‒ a horror entry that’s at once scary, sardonic and, in a very sick way, almost playful.

BIG BAD WOLVES  With Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Doval’e Glickman. Written, directed by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado. 110 min. Unrated (would be hard R for gruesome torture scenes)

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