Swan-diving into the gutter with unstoppable squalid intent, this none-more-black Belgian comedy yawps its mission statement to your face: ‘To descend the depths of stupidity, ugliness, obtuseness, unfaithfulness and fake.’ No kidding. The freakshow kicks off as wealthy, famous writer, Dries (Dries Vanhegen) occupies himself by joining a punk band whose members are, by their own description, ‘handicapped’. The singer is a skinhead rapist with a penchant for brutal violence against women. The bassist is a deaf junkie who lives with his rancid wife and starving baby daughter. The guitarist is gay, has a paralysed arm, a bald, obese mother and an insane, straitjacketed father. Their group’s name? The Feminists. And so it begins. Wading forward through blood, vomit and bad intentions, Dries’ journey into the arse-end of a wasted Belgian scuzzscape aims to max out on, well, everything: foul language, violence, threesomes, murder, nudity, anal sex, infanticide, homophobia… And those are the laughs.
Guess what? Mortier hasn’t the half the wit to autopsy his own punk provocation. But, somehow, this debut film almost clings together through surprising visuals, rude vitality and raw, bullet-proof confidence. Unspooling his opening reel backwards, the former music-video director shakes out the cinematic trick-book with some assurance – topsy-turvy shots, strobing edits, multiple exposure, slo-mo – and, for all the berserker misanthropy, keeps a handle on his obnoxious losers. It’s a bizarre anti-affection that’s tough to dodge. Indeed, Mortier’s straining shock tactics are almost too off the chart to truly offend: not least in a moment of irresistible surrealism when a character named Big Dick invites Dries to stand inside his girlfriend’s cavernous vagina.