And so, the last film of Frightfest 2013 was also to be the last ever shown in the 1500-seater Empire Screen 1 before its split into two screens (one of which an IMAX). As it was, Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves was also one of the most anticipated, coming from writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (Rabies).
The fairytale-esque title carries through into the imagery particularly at the start of the film, which centres on the converging paths of a policeman investigating a series of abductions and murders of children, a teacher under suspicion and the father of one of the missing girls, but it’s definitely more grim than Grimm in this case.
Yet the element that stands out most about the film is how genuinely funny it is; without ever making light of the seriousness of its themes, the script skilfully brings out a great deal of comedy in the characters. Helped by great performances, you’ll find yourself laughing, then wondering if you should feel guilty laughing at a film about kidnapping, then snickering again. It even pokes fun at typical Yiddish archetypes, with an unfortunately-timed phonecall from a stereotypical Jewish mother of particular note.
For all of the humour though, serious sections are no less impactful and the plot is gripping throughout. Even when actions become extreme, they are consistent to the characters and the desperation in particular is palpable.
By turns disturbing, shocking and hilarious, Big Bad Wolves is a breakthrough for Israeli cinema and a brilliant film to boot. Truly a great farewell to one of the great screens in London, and to Frightfest 2013, it’s already one of my films of the year too. *****