original title: C’est Arrivè Près de Chez Vous
aka: It Happened in Your Neighborhood
Director: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Benoit Poelvoorde
Starring: Benoit Poelvoorde, Malou Madou, Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Jean-Marc Chenut
A killer comedy
A group of amateur filmmakers has decided to create a documentary where they follow the daily life of a serial killer. They get in touch with Ben (short for Benoit), a charming poetic man in his thirties who enjoy the finer things in life, a good film, a great meal and also to murder off random people to create a decent income for himself.
During the production the crew and Ben becomes close and developes a great friendship. It even goes so far that the crew gets involved in the illegal activities of Ben and he in return becomes an investor of their documentary. The problem now is, how can they wrap this story up?
Man Bites Dog is a small Belgium movie that has gathered some recognition over the years, especially with the excellent Criterion DVD release. It is shot in black and white and takes advantage of the handheld camera style several years ahead of The Blair Witch Project.
At first view, the film is disturbing and is bound to shock you. On a second or even third watch however, the subtle comedy of the film shines more through and it is easier to see what the filmmakers was going for and succeeded very much in doing. Instead of the focus being on all the random killings, it’s more of a psychological study of Ben and also a comment on how little death of random people really matter to the average person. Even today, a big sport event or celebrity relationships will get more national media coverage than a random murder.
The comedy is very satirical and it’s not a comedy that will make the average cinema goer laugh out loud, however for people who are already familiar with morbid stuff (for instance the horror crowd) it should be easier to pick it up and have fun with it. Of course, in the middle of all of the fun is our main character and vicious serial killer – Ben.
Ben, played by Benoit Poelvoorde, becomes quite likeable to the audience in the same way that he becomes friends with the film crew. We don’t get to know much about the rest of the crew, except Remy who appears in front of the camera a few times to talk either with Ben or directly at the camera. So if they hadn’t put so much effort into making the Ben character likeable, then the movie would surely become dull very quickly. It also adds to the shock element how much Ben grabs you into his world and makes you nearly have fun with him while he is out doing his “work”.
The makers of this film, which are also the same that act in it, was just a couple of film students in Belgium. It’s amazing how well done this is when you consider that it is done by students who have little experience with film before making this. Sadly, the only one who is still active in cinema is Benoit Poelvoorde, who is doing quite well for himself as an actor these days.
Man Bites Dog is a fascinating movie that holds up on repeated viewings. It is original, morbid, shocking, violent and even funny. It might not be a straight up horror film, but it is a film that the horror crowd should be able to appreciate. It is still an underrated movie and a film more people still need to check out.