After a perversely fascinating first half, a darkly comic psychodrama goes plain psycho in "Bad Family," the third feature from Finnish writer-helmer Aleski Salmenpera ("Producing Adults"). At first, tale of an overprotective dad who believes his teen son is shtupping a long-lost sister builds a transgressive tension redolent of guilty pleasures such as Joseph Ruben's "The Stepfather" or Salmenpera's own "A Man's Job." But pic loses its way at midpoint, becoming a tonal rollercoaster that skitters to a weak stop. Although likely to do best business in ancillary, pedigree of Salmenpera and producer Aki Kaurismaki could leverage further fest play.

After a perversely fascinating start, a darkly comic psychodrama goes plain psycho in “Bad Family,” from Finnish writer-helmer Aleksi Salmenpera (“Producing Adults”). At first, this tale of an overprotective dad who believes his teen son is shtupping a long-lost sister builds a transgressive tension redolent of guilty pleasures such as “The Stepfather” or Salmenpera’s own “Man’s Job.” But the pic loses its way at the midpoint, becoming a tonal roller-coaster that skitters to a stop. The pedigree of Salmenpera and producer Aki Kaurismaki could leverage further fest play, though the pic is likely to do best in ancillary.

Mikael (Ville Virtanen, so tightly wound it’s scary) micromanages his good-looking high school son Dani (Lauri Tilkanen) until the day daughter Tilda (Berlin fest shooting star Pihla Viitala) appears. Soon, youthful rebellion fills the air and an obsessive father’s mind recoils at thoughts of incest until madness sets in. In the beginning, serious thesping by the three principals suggests psychological depth, but the script eventually leaves them high and dry. Lenser Tuomo Hutri gives the proceedings a hyperrealist look, while a lightly used keyboard-and-percussion score adds mocking commentary.

Bad Family

Finland

Production

A Sandrew Metronome Distribution release (in Finland) of a Sputnik Oy production. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Aki Kaurismaki. Directed, written by Aleksi Salmenpera.

Crew

Camera (color), Tuomo Hutri; editor, Samu Heikkila; music, Ville Tanttu; production designer, Markku Patila; costume designer, Ella Brigatti; sound (Dolby Digital), Tero Malmberg. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 14, 2010. Original title: Paha perhe. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Ville Virtanen, Pihla Viitala, Lauri Tilkanen, Vera Kiiskinen, Niki Seppala, Ismo Kallio, Tomi (Topi) Salmela.

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