Grimm Love: Dread part deux, or, Teal Deer About Vore.

Katie is obsessed with the case of cannibal Oliver Hartwin and his victim, Simon - so much so that she does her graduate studies in Germany, where both men lived. Her obsession goes to the next level when she starts researching her thesis project (on Oliver and Simon, naturally) and makes a discovery that will change her forever.

Grimm Love is not an easy movie to watch. I called it Dread part deux at the beginning, and it's a fair comparison; both movies are bleak, and thoughtful, and bloody without being needlessly gory. The only major difference is, Dread is based on a Clive Barker short story, and Grimm Love is based on an actual case in Germany.

I am not a vore person. I don't get it. I understand the technical definition, but then there's a disconnect; I don't understand, deep down, how people can get turned on by the desire to eat someone, or be eaten. I also don't get scat, but if they've made a movie about that, I haven't heard about it. So while I can look at the movie, and agree that Simon - for whatever reason - really wanted to be eaten, and Oliver really wanted to eat him, I just--it's like trying to understand why it would be sexy to shit in someone's mouth. I end up making that face, like your dog looking at your answering machine.

Which is what Katie probably should have done, but her story's easier to understand: she fell down the rabbit hole. She got lost in something for a while. It isn't something you or I would get lost in, and I can only follow her so far intellectually, but from the outside I bet fandom looks just as strange. (More than bet, actually; there's a reason so many articles about fandom from an outside perspective run along the lines of "oh, these crazy people on the internet!") Her way out isn't as extreme as I thought the movie was going to go - there's a horrible, tense ten minutes where I was legitimately worried for Katie - but I completely understand her final response.

(Part of it, too, is that the movie was shot - I'm not sure if it was actually in Germany? But overseas. It's not trying to be America, or Canada, or somewhere familiar; it's that same dreamy sense of unreality you get watching The Grudge, where half the point is that Sarah Michelle Gellar is a stranger in a strange land. It's also a nice counterpoint to the Hostel movies, where you have Americans going to Europe and assuming that, as Americans, they're always going to be safe no matter what; in things like this and The Grudge, you never really lose the sense that Katie's - or Karen's - connection is tenuous at best, that at any given moment she could be sent out to sea and never heard from again. It's a nice touch.)

The awful thing is, even when Oliver and Simon's motivations are alien at best, you never really get the sense that they're bad people. Lost, yeah, and confused, and in desperate need of therapy and a totally different upbringing, but they're not monsters; they're people who were involved in a monstrous act. Simon's torn up over guilt about his mother freaking out and committing suicide when he was a child (she caught him playing doctor with another boy; way to overreact, ma'am), but he's not so messed up he doesn't try. One of the most awful parts of the movie to me, honestly, was the fact that when he did this, he was seeing someone - a cute, funny bartender named Felix, someone he loved and who loved him back. That's the part that I really don't get: how you can love someone, and be loved in return, but still hate yourself enough to want someone to actually eat you. (The movie spends time showing Felix and Simon's relationship, which makes the whole thing even more heartbreaking.)

Oliver is a little harder to understand; his father and brothers abandoned him and his mother as a child, leaving him alone with her - and she's a piece of work, that one - until she died when he was in his early 30s. You never really get a sense of why he wants to eat people - he wants a human connection? He wants to feel loved? I'm still not sure. It almost works better if it remains utterly alien: this is a thing that he wants, that he needs, and there's no psychological reason for it, nothing to trace it to in his past. Some houses are born bad; some people want things that are horrible. You can fight against your basest needs--but if there's someone who wants to fulfill them, is that so bad? Is that so evil?

Everyone in this movie does an amazing job. Keri Russell has never particularly impressed me, but she does a slow, subtle slide into obsession with the case; some of it's the makeup, especially once it really kicks in, but most of it is her. Her narration about the soft, perfect dream about everything being neat and orderly really resonates. Thomas Kretschmann is one of those guys you hear about, but I haven't seen him in a lot of things--besides Wanted, and that doesn't really count; dude's in the movie for five minutes, and I *still* call BS on him being old enough to be James McAvoy's dad--but he makes Oliver strangely sympathetic, for a guy who jerks off at the thought of eating another human being. (...sentences I never thought I'd type.) Thomas Huber has maybe the hardest job as Simon, who has to balance guilt and hating himself with love for Simon and regret for leaving him behind.

The title is tenuous at best, making reference to the Brothers Grimm; I prefer one of its other titles, Butterfly, though I get why it wasn't released under that name in this country. (It's a reference to a scene near the end of the film; it makes sense in context.) And it's not so crazy; Grimm Love is, at its core, a story about love--not typical, not the kind that ends in a wedding. It's the kind that burns you up, leaving nothing but ash. But if it's what two people want, and they're both adults, is it any of our business?

*

(As a sidebar, this was released as part of Fangoria's FrightFest, their 2010 version of the After Dark Horrorfest only direct to DVD. Going by the trailers--which can be wildly misleading, I know--I'm most interested by Hunger (the kind with people locked in a cave, not the Bobby Sands biopic) and The Tomb (ugh, Wes Bentley, why can I not quit you?), though Dark House has the added benefit of having Jeffrey Combs--always a plus!--and I've heard pretty good things about Fragile.)
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