The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - HAGAZUSSA | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - HAGAZUSSA

hagazussa review
A 15th Century Alpine goat-herder succumbs to dark forces.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lukas Feigelfeld

Starring: Aleksandra Cwen, Celina Peter, Claudia Martini, Tanja Petrovsky, Haymon Maria Buttinger

hagazussa bluray

The folk horror sub-genre, which has been undergoing a revival in recent years, has often focussed on female sexuality and men's fear thereof. Think of Linda Hayden and Britt Ekland driving puritanical prudes crazy with their naked bodies in Blood on Satan's Claw and The Wicker Man respectively, or the desire of powerful men to crush the weaponised lust of the female vampires of Hammer's Karnstein trilogy. In the middle ages, any woman who expressed the slightest bit of horniness was in danger of being branded a witch and burned at the stake.

hagazussa review

Hagazussa takes its title from an old German term for "witch", and focusses on the sexual and psychological torment of Albrun, a lonely goat-herder living a secluded life in the Alps of the 15th century. Played initially by child actress Celina Peter, we find Albrun living with her hag like mother (Claudia Martini) in a secluded cabin on the edge of a village. Shunned by the locals who accuse them of witchcraft and harass them in the dead of night, Albrun and her mother make a living selling goat's milk to the villagers, but spend most of them secluded together in the cabin. This culminates in Albrun being sexually abused by her mother, who runs into the snow where she dies of frostbite.

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Cut to several years later and Albrun is now a young woman (played now by Aleksandra Cwen) and mother to an infant child. The child's father is nowhere to be seen, and we never learn of his origins, though it's implied that Albrun may have been raped. One day while enduring her usual mocking at the hands of local kids, a local woman, Swinda (Tanja Petrovsky), comes to Albrun's aid, chasing off the kids. The two become friends, and Albrun is happy to have some human contact, but it soon becomes clear that Swinda may have sinister intentions.

hagazussa review

Sparse and stark in both plot and dialogue, Hagazussa owes a large debt to silent cinema. Taken on their own merits, it boasts individual sequences that spell out its theme of repressed sexuality as horror - none more so than Albrun's ecstatic masturbation as she milks a goat, suggestively groping its bloated udder - but line them up one after another and it becomes a test of the viewer's patience. We get it, living alone in the Alps in a time as hostile towards women as the 15th century is no barrel of laughs, but the film is little more than a litany of misery enacted upon and endured by its protagonist. We soon grow numb to its somnolent shock tactics, and for all its artistic successes (the Alpine setting and striking production design, including a church whose walls are lined with human skulls, keep it visually interesting), Hagazussa is merely a more highbrow variation of torture porn, asking us to passively observe a woman's emotional, psychological and ultimately physical destruction.

hagazussa review

Arrow Video's blu-ray artwork for writer/director Lukas Feigelfeld's feature debut (crowdfunded as his films chool graduation project) wouldn't look out of place on the sleeve of a Heavy Metal LP, and with its witches, walls of skulls and things that slither in the night, Hagazussa is a very Metal movie indeed. That said, with its funereal pace, watching Hagazussa is like listening to a Metal record backwards - the resulting noise somewhat resembles music, and if you strain your ears you just might discern a message, but surely there are better ways to spend your time?

Hagazussa is on Shudder UK now.