Strangled (2016) – Film Review
Director: Árpád Sopsits
Cast: Károly Hajduk, Gábor Jászberényi, Zsolt Anger
by Ashleigh Millman
A thriller that’s as viscerally graphic as it is psychologically disturbing, Strangled’s basis in reality is all too frightening. A film that will have you glued to the edge of your seat from start to finish, Árpád Sopsits’ Hungarian tale of a serial killer on the loose reminds us that monsters aren’t always supernatural. Sometimes, they’re lurking in plain sight.
Based in socialist Hungary in the 1960s, Strangled opens with the incarceration of Ákos Réti (Gábor Jászberényi) for the killing of his beau. The population of Martfüi is led to believe that all is well once more in their comfortable small-town lives – until seven years later, when a series of brutal sexual assaults resulting in murder take place that are markedly similar to Réti’s crime.
Bringing in dedicated detective Zoltán Szirmai (Péter Bárnai), the police force soon realise it’s a race against time to find their killer – though the similarities from years earlier still haunt the present.
Strangled is as cold and straightforward as the name suggests, staring its crimes straight in the face with an unflinching certainty. Károly Hajduk stars as the sinister Pál Bognár, an insatiably hungry predator – committing himself to the role in a way that makes it hard to watch.
With scenes of depraved indulgence and a sickening insight into the mind of a warped man, Strangled is remarkable in that it keeps daring you to look away: then, at the same time, makes doing so impossible.
Corrupted police systems, heart-breaking deaths, and a tone so dark it weighs heavy on your chest – the film is reminiscent of crime thrillers such as LA Confidential, whilst remaining true to its unique niche setting.
Menacingly beautiful cinematography reigns free throughout, with Zoltán in particular spearheading a quest for justice in a setting that almost demands the opposite, and framed as such. The juxtaposition of good and evil is never reduced to its simplest form, but rather toyed with in all aspects of the film – there is no true feeling of ‘fairness’ to reassure the audience, just as life often isn’t fair.
Whilst occasionally over-egging its intensity and pushing the bleak dystopia of post-war Hungary to its limit, Strangled does pull itself back enough to remain gripping rather than melodramatic.
If you’re after a psycho-thriller that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth, then this film will do exactly that – a sick, slick crime drama with a nasty bite.