Thursday, January 5, 2017

In short: Amsterdamned (1988)

A rather creative serial killer is terrorizing Amsterdam. Thanks to the city’s abundance of canals, he gets around town by diving through said canals wearing SCUBA gear, from time to time pulling people in and slaughtering them in various unpleasant ways. The head of the investigation, Eric Visser (Huub Stapel), doesn’t have much to go on, and since the only investigating he’s ever going to do is going through a list of citizens with diving licenses, he has ample time to romance museum guide Laura (Monique van de Ven).That subplot is going to be important for the finale because writer director Dick Maas clearly couldn’t be arsed to come up with a way of unmasking the killer that doesn’t result in a yawning viewer.

But then, the script to Amsterdamned really isn’t any great shakes anyway: the killer is exactly who you think it is once the character has been introduced thanks to the film not providing any alternatives, yet still Maas pretends the whole thing to be a big surprise; the characters have zero defining traits among them (Visser is hairy and drinks a lot, I guess?); and the first hour of the film’s too ample nearly two hours of running time is mostly spent on little of interest apart from the murders.

The murders are admittedly pretty great. There’s not just the silly yet fresh SCUBA killer angle, but Maas has also put some thought into keeping the murders diverse - which is one hundred percent more thought than went into the rest of the script. An additional feather in Amsterdamned’s cap is Maas’s lovingly scuzzy outlook on Amsterdam, turning the place into the only thing on screen whose characterization isn’t taken from everyone’s favourite film school course “cliché characters without personality 101”. Add to that the actually brilliant and insane motorboat chase late in the film, and you have a rather frustrating experience.

Amsterdamned is a film that could have been brilliant, and does in fact feature quite a few incredible scenes when it comes to murder and chases, but that also gets into its own way with deeply boring characters, and plodding plotting that often goes nowhere to follow red herrings and detours for way too long. For my tastes, all this overwhelms the delicious slasher/action movie hybrid Amsterdamned’s good bits try their best to deliver.

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