AMSTERDAMNED (1988) – Well, this will be an unexpected twist for regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog. Usually I review bad movie classics that don’t have the following they deserve, but in this case I’m reviewing a film that has a reputation for being bad, but really isn’t.
I’ve meant to write this review for awhile now. Amsterdamned is one of those films on the “must see” list for many of my fellow bad movie fans. I felt that way for years, too. After all, the film is from the same director who did The Lift, the hilariously bad “killer elevator” movie that I reviewed long ago on this blog. It also stars Huub Stapel, the man who played the heroic elevator repairman (no, I’m not kidding) in that movie. I’m trying to get people to refer to Evil Dead and Maniac Cop legend Bruce Campbell as “the American Huub Stapel” but so far no luck.
Anyway, this flick was made in the Netherlands just like the previous Maas/ Stapel opus but is actually a fine movie that word of mouth has unfairly tagged as a turkey. I think people fixate on a couple of things that make them go into the film expecting a bomb. I know I was expecting one, probably for the same reasons – 1. The same director and star as the infamous movie The Lift and 2. An equally bizarre premise – in this case a slasher in a diving suit, complete with flippers, roams the canals of Amsterdam and pops out of the water periodically to slice and dice his victims.
Yes, the premise can’t help but sound silly, and I settled in on my first viewing prepared to laugh my ass off at another cosmically bad movie, only to find my laughter fading shortly after the first victim or two. Amsterdamned is the last thing from a turkey. It’s also not a traditional slasher flick, but that is the angle often played up in ads.
Targeting the slasher crowd ensures that the people who do watch this movie will not find what they want – namely, mindless victims and non-stop bloodshed, usually during or after sex. It also ensures that people who might like the film don’t bother watching it.
Amsterdamned is a very well-done suspense/ police procedural movie with terrific action sequences. The extensive network of canals scattered throughout the city is exploited perfectly, making the movie stand out from all others you may have seen. Amsterdam looks beautiful in this flick, not tarnished and crumbling like Venice, with its similarly ubiquitous canals.
The plot of the film centers around the aforementioned murderous scuba diver who is being pursued by our hero Huub, playing a very intense Amsterdam detective. Monique van de Ven costars as Huub’s eventual romantic interest (if you consider that a spoiler you must never have seen a movie in your life) and a potential victim of the killer. The movie is exquisitely directed and enjoys wittily playing with the conventions of the genre by setting the viewer up for the usual suspense movie cliches but then double-crossing them nearly every time by serving up the unexpected.
For a glib description of Amsterdamned, picture a film with the Alfred Hitchcock approach to suspense and with the Master’s talent for utilizing beautiful locations, but with a Die Hard approach to the periodic action scenes. The show- stopper in this movie is a lengthy motorboat chase throughout Amsterdam’s canals and is so well done it could fit nicely in a James Bond or Indiana Jones flick.
There’s really only one gratuitously gory scene in the entire movie and it comes very early on. Don’t give up on the film by assuming more gruesome displays are forthcoming. Stick with it and I think you’ll agree that Amsterdamned’s bum rap comes from people being predisposed to snarkiness because of the admittedly absurd- sounding premise.
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