Taking the torture-porn concept absolutely literally, the bluntly titled “A Serbian Film” is a well-crafted, immensely indecent smut slasher that falls short of the original “Hostel” and “Saw,” but still reps a daresay “respectable” go at the genre. Debuting helmer Srdjan Spasojevic’s twisted tale of an out-of-work adult film star who (in every way) attaches himself to a deadly new project is also a warning call to budding thesps: Read the whole contract, and don’t trust a director who claims that “life, art and blood” are their inspirations. Fanboys will be lapping up the ketchup in fright fests and ancillary.
Though word-of-mouth following its SXSW premiere promised a film that would make “Antichrist” and “Kinatay” look like “Leave it to Beaver,” pic is actually heavier on the X-rated side than the gore, and only its final reel of carnage will give hardcore horror fans their due.
Story kicks off as a darkish, fairly entertaining deadpan comedy where Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), described as the “Nikola Tesla of world pornography,” is short on cash and pouring himself a tad too many whiskeys. Stuck at home watching his own studded oeuvre, he’s urged by his wife (Jelena Gavrilovic) and an S&M-garbed colleague (Katrina Zutic) to get back in the sack and make some dough.
What he’s offered is to star in the next opus from ominous director Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic), who claims to have held a “lifelong fascination with the world of film” and bemoans the fact that Serbia is “no country for real art.” But once shooting begins, it’s clear that Vukmir is no Kusturica, and his specialty is real-life versions of the work of Eli Roth and Mark Burg, with an auteur’s taste for pre-adolescent girls, untold bodily violence and a special genre he dubs “newborn porn” (don’t ask).
Despite such shock content, which reaches an almost criminal threshold at the very close, the film is not as off-putting as it sounds, and its sleaze-factor is distilled through clever construction, good acting and sleek widescreen lensing.
As for the title, dialogue makes reference to war orphans and the Hague tribunal, but otherwise it seems to be a stab at irony, and clearly one that won’t please its homeland.