Crime / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 78%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 100%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 2620


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Coventry 7 / 10

Grim and unsettling serial-killer thriller from Hungary

"Strangled" is the international title of the Hungarian horror/thriller "A Martfüi Rém" – which roughly translates as "The Martfü Monster" – that is set in the politically turbulent period of the late fifties and early sixties, and is based on the true story of a vicious serial killer that terrorized a little industrial town. I reckon that every country has its own morbid serial killer case, and this is definitely one of the darkest pages in the history book of Hungary. "Strangled" is a very intense, stoic and grisly film and writer/director Árpád Sopsits certainly didn't bother to palliate the facts. In 1957, in the little community of Martfü where almost everybody works in the shoe factory, the corpse of a young woman is discovered in the river. The police are put under a lot of pressure to solve the crime and inspectors Botá and Katona quickly arrest the victim's weak and gullible boyfriend Akos Reti. When Reti confesses, he gets sentenced to life-imprisonment while inspector Katona gets promoted to district attorney. Seven years later, however, the mutilated bodies of multiple women are once more discovered in Martfü, and a few girls who narrowly survived the encounter with their attacker are scarred and traumatized for life. Botá receives a brand new, young and ambitious colleague who wants to re-open the 1957-case, because they may have convicted the wrong man to prison, but the district attorney Katona is too concerned about his reputation and obstructs the investigation. In parallel, the film depicts how Akos Reti literally decays in prison and even follows around the real murderer as he prepares for his next sickening and repulsive crime.

The film benefices tremendously from the gloomy time period and the sensitive political climate that both have been wondrously recreated! Practically the entire town of Martfü's population of Martfü comes walking out of the bombastic shoe factory gates. The people return to their tiny grey homes or depressing apartment blocks, while the more influential authority figures arrogantly refer to each other as "Comrade" and revert to corruption in order to save their slightly more luxurious social position. "Strangled" allegedly was a giant box-office success in its home country, which is surprising because the subject matter is extremely sinister and director Sopsits certainly doesn't restrain on showing uncompromising violence and misogynist cruelty. Many sequences are not for the squeamish, including bits of necrophilia, and the atmosphere is continuously bleak with eerie music and desolate photography. The film isn't entirely flawless, mind you. With 118 (!) minutes, "Strangled" is about 20-25 minutes too long. There are several moments of long silence between the lead characters, but those sequences are suspenseful and shouldn't have been cut. Instead, we could have done with fewer dialogues between the coppers about their cover- ups.

Reviewed by CrazyCultFilms 5 / 10

Gratuitous violence overshadows any underlying message about State corruption

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: I watched this at London Film Festival where the director described his desire to tell about the political corruption that prevented a competent investigation into a serial rape/murder case. Fine. But after having watched the film, which for the first half burdens us with the unnecessary graphically depicted rape scenes and close ups showing horrific violence against numerous women (and a child), I'm not sure any political message is what you are left thinking about.

The fact the entire story could have equally been told without a single rape scene being showed, leads me to believe the director simply enjoyed showing this type of violence, and that these scenes were included for shock value. Confirmed by the director himself who wanted to provide 'horror' for the audience.

So if you were hoping to find an impressive depiction of the corrupt Communist regime, you may be disappointed by this. If you were looking for Last House on the Left x5 then you've come to the right place.

I've given it 5 stars because the acting was good, there's some excellent dialogues and the cinematography is beautiful. But for me, the story (structure not content) was weak and relied heavily on American style 'violence for the sake of violence'. Do better please.

Films like Memories of Murder did a far better job showing the corruption of a political system in a police investigation (and the violence included was far more appropriate to the story).

Reviewed by TwistedMango 8 / 10

Engaging and intense crime thriller

Police hunt a predator in 50s Hungary, while another man rots in prison for the crimes

In a nation still reeling in the aftermath of a crushed uprising against their Soviet overlords, a woman is murdered and raped after leaving her job at the local shoe factory. A lover is rounded up, he admits to the crime and is sentenced to life, and the townsfolk continue their existence. Yet seven years later Martfű is beset by similar murders, and the race is on for the police to unravel the mystery.

Strangled is an engrossing if challenging work, echoing some of the great crime thrillers while maintaining a local flavour. The setting itself captures the drabness so associated with the Eastern bloc of the Cold War, shots of workers streaming out of the shoe factory reminiscent of Metropolis. There is also no attempt to shy away from the heinous crimes, and neither does director Árpád Sopsits let the period setting overpower the film narrative.

The graphic nature of Strangled's depiction of murder and necrophilia at first come across as close to mere sordid titillation. As the film progresses, it becomes clear how important it is to depict these scenes within the plot, giving an idea of what these women and the community as a whole had to suffer.

The drunk local cop, the precocious outside detective, the commander who wants the whole thing shut down quickly with no loose ends. We've seen all these character templates before, but that's not to say they're all adequately delivered here. It's also clear that in this Iron Curtain environment no-one is to be trusted, and no-one is going to give you a medal for doing the right thing.

Though while there is a lot of talk of how the city of Martfű is paralyzed with fear, rarely does the audience feel it outside of the core characters focused on. A greater focus on the community and a little less on the police machinations could have aided the overall film.

There is also a tacit belief in the audience's previous awareness of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, which affects the investigation into the initial murder. It is refreshing to see an international film which is not afraid to tell a story without pandering to outside audiences, though an unawareness of this event could leave viewers somewhat confused at points.

The production is well made without being flashy, dramatic set-pieces fitting in well with the overall drive of the police to catch the killer. A particular highlight is Inspector Zoltán (Péter Bárnai), racing a train to see if the details of a case match up. There are also fleeting moments of beauty in this film, shining out amongst the monotony of the town and the horror of the crimes.

Though a grim sense of inevitability pervades some of the events in Strangled, there is plenty of twists and turns right up to the film's final moments. Strands of the films successfully interweave, both the supposed killer in prison (played well by Gábor Jászberényi), and the killer on the loose. Only a couple of scenes feel unnecessary in this taut and engrossing plot, its basis on true events adding to its verisimilitude.

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