From Dick Maas, the man who gifted us with the killer lift movie unsurprisingly titled, The Lift (actual tag line: For God’s Sake Use The Stairs), Amsterdamned is a little seen, hugely underappreciated serial killer movie that draws heavily from the Giallo genre to give us possibly the finest Dutch thriller involving a killer frog man you’ll ever see.
Ok, rampant wise-assery aside, Amsterdamned admittedly may be a movie that’s tough to take seriously on face value at first thanks to it’s magnificently schlocky title and some some half decent dubbing, but lurking in the grimy canals is an extremely high concept. After all, Amsterdam has around 160 canals which has a total combined length of about 25 miles; imaging an aquatic murderer with a grudge against the city that can traverse these winding waterways without being detected. Interested now?
A brutal murderer is striking on the canals of Amsterdam, popping out of the water to slice some unlucky passer-by into fillets and then disappearing back into the murky waters without a trace. Displaying his first kill from a bridge like a trophy, the powers that be put pressure on detective Eric Visser to catch this submerged maniac but it’s going to take a little more than a plucky attitude and some waterproof socks to bag this lunatic.
Further complicating Visser’s life (as if nabbing a mystery psycho in a snorkel wasn’t complicated enough) his precocious, thirteen year old daughter and her dorky companion she’s blatantly friend zoned have a mind to try and crack the case themselves. However, addressing the balance somewhat is the arrival of Laura, a museum guide who takes more than a passing interest in Visser’s gruff charms and the reconnecting of Eric old friend on the river police, John, who had a falling out with our hero years before thanks to merger of Visser’s wandering libido and John’s old girlfriend…
Seemingly uncatchable, the serial killer starts to get ever more creative with his murders as his victims grow ever more random – a solitary old man here, a sunbathing young woman there… the mutilated bodies start piling up like laundry in a student’s bedroom but just when the police finally might have some kind of a breakthrough, Visser and the killer have a showdown in the Amsterdam canals that involves duelling speedboats, crazy stunts and a frantic chase through the city’s sewer system.
Who the hell is this guy, and what traumatic experience has driven him to committing such vicious acts on everyday folk – Visser may find the answer may have something with his new lady friend…
Less of a straight slasher and more of marvelously flamboyant whodunit, Amsterdamned is probably what you’d get if Italian Giallo-king Dario Argento decided to remake Jaws but thought the idea of a shark attacking New England was way too normal for his tastes. The setting is fantastic and is probably the best marriage of movie and location since Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now took Donald Sutherland on a fateful wander in Venice with it’s locations being utilised so well it could stand up as a genuine tourist video… if you took out the deranged murderer of course.
Working well with it’s sky high concept and great location is that the movie isn’t afraid to get it’s hands dirty with some exceptionally gnarly kills. An early scene when a tour boat stumbles across the ravaged body of a murdered hooker hanging from a bridge is utter genius as kids, parents and a couple of nuns scream in horror as it’s dragged agonisingly slowly across the glass roof leaving a trail of gore in it’s wake – similarly a severed head turning up on the end of an anchor as the it’s owner’s buddy unknowingly hauls it into the boat is also creepily memorable. However, the movie has much more going for it than some soggy gore as the stalking scenes leading up to the deaths show real verve and imagination: an encounter in a sunken boat is the exact moment Friday The 13th meets Jaws and a the all-seeing camera panning to the left and then to the right to reveal a cook’s butcher knife vanishing as the killer takes it from under his very giving nose adds a Hitchcockian flare to proceedings. Also, Maas still remembers to give things a sleazy little twist (we are in the home of the Red Light District after all) and a stunningly grotty sequence where the killer is staring right up at a shapely victim from between her legs through her transparent rubber raft recalls the best of creepy voyeristic euro-horror at it’s questionable finest.
But it’s not all unsettling knife-as-a-penis metaphor as Amsterdamned also happens to feature a legitimately amazing speedboat chase that easily squares up to any involving James Bond or even the one in Face/Off that has our hero make hairpin turns, death defying jumps and even has him tumble of the back to desperately cling on as it speeds through the waterways like hyperactive weasel.
Finishing off the pulp feel of this unearthed gem is the performances and characters in which all the characters are stunningly cynical and always have a wise crack or six ready to go the second another shredded corpse turns up. When two ecologists turn up missing large chunks of themselves after a night of taking water samples, Visser points out that they were the ones getting sampled. Funny? Yes. Professional? Who gives a fuck? Although it probably explains how he’s raised a sassy teenage daughter who thinks it’s hilarious to embarrass him by telling his work that “he’s probably masturbating” when they phone him. It’s these nicely weird quirks that gives the film it’s odd personality that makes it stand out so much from other psycho-thriller fare as it simultaneously ticks so many genre boxes in one movie. For the price of admission you get a Hollywood style police procedural, an action flick, a slasher movie and a perverse euro-thriller (everyone in the film seems to be perpetually horny – two cops note that a victim-to-be has a figure that “would stop traffic” literally seconds before she’s hauled into the drink and murdered off screen) all in one for no extra charge. In fact, with all it’s stunts and stabs, it would make an awesome double bill with the vaguely similar Maniac Cop – another film that throttles the very best out of it’s rich concept.
Some naysayers may balk and the skeezy tone or the stunning about of overused movie tropes – Visser is essentially a walking amalgamation of every on-the-edge police detective that’s ever lived – but if you manage to raise this gem from the depths, I’ll think you’ll agree it’s Amsterdamned good.