A gruesome serial killer thriller based on a disturbing true story, Árpád Sopsits’ Strangled reflects its grim post-Revolution Hungarian setting.
Lady Killerby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
It’s bleak postwar Hungary after the suppression of the Uprising against Soviet-imposed policies in 1956. The small town of Martfü is dominated by its shoe factory, which employs most of its population. Shy, unprepossessing Réti (Gábor Jászberényi) waits to walk home his on-off girlfriend after work. Later she is found murdered, it seems an open-and-shut case and he is convicted and imprisoned. His sister Rita ((Szofia Szamosi) urges him to fight to prove his innocence.
Seven years later, while Réti is still in prison, murders start again, with the same modus operandi. It’s clear there’s still a serial killer on the loose and that the police originally got it wrong with Réti, but they are reluctant to admit it. The local police chief toes the party line that serial killers cannot exist in a socialist society but Bóta (Zsolt Anger), the hard-drinking veteran detective, is riven by the realisation of his failure. When an idealistic new young prosecutor (Péter Bárnai) arrives and reopens the case, he ruffles feathers and puts himself at risk. We see another suspect, Bognar Pal (Karoly Hajduk), emerge but he’s not on the police’s radar. Meanwhile, more women and girls are violently murdered as they walk alone at night, and the crimes escalate from attack and murder into rape, necrophilia and mutilation as the killer increasingly needs the thrill and sexual release he gets from it.
Strangled is a gruesome, suspenseful, difficult film to watch. Male attitudes to women, not just those of the serial killer, are chauvinistic and at times sexually brutal. It’s a dark (literally, most scenes are shot at night) story set in an uncomfortably dysfunctional society, where it seems political corruption rules even the law. It creates a miserable, repressed world of its own where no character is really sympathetic and truth does not necessarily lead to welcome resolution. It’s a formidable achievement.
Strangled premiered in the UK at the 61st BFI London Film Festival and is released on 17 November 2017 in the UK./em>