What do you get when you cross a “theater of the mind” audio drama with a series of seemingly unrelated images? If you guessed an experimental horror comedy, then you are likely a discerning fear-fare fanatic who should find plenty to like about Razzennest (Austria, 2022), writer/director Johannes Grenzfurthner’s follow-up to last year’s Masking Threshold. It’s not for everyone, though, as some might find it something of an endurance test.
The official film summary for the film is: “South African enfant terrible filmmaker and artiste-cineaste Manus Oosthuizen (voice of Michael Smulik) meets with Rotten Tomatoes-approved indie film critic Babette Cruickshank (voice of Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh) in an Echo Park sound studio. With key members of Manus’s crew joining, they record an audio commentary track for his new elegiac feature documentary Razzennest. But the session goes down a different path. The ultimate elevation of arthouse horror, just not as you might expect.”
Grenzfurthner skewers arthouse films while also creating a valentine to them. He also tackles many subjects in the meta-commentary, including the Thirty Years War, Christianity’s effect on society, the self-importance displayed by some filmmakers, and more.
The humor ranges from broad and grabbing low-hanging fruit to scathing and on-point to dark and controversial. The horror is mostly off-screen, described or acted out by characters, though some visual images are unsettling.
The visuals appear to be mostly B-roll — one of the subjects broached during the film — and stock footage. This makes the audio more important than what is shown on screen for Razzennest, and this is a tipping point where some viewers will enjoy Grenzfurthner’s experiment more than others. I’m guessing that those who have an affinity for old time radio horror shows such as Lights Out and The Weird Circle or more modern variations will adapt to the format rather easily, as should those who enjoy watching films with talent and critical commentary providing the audio.
More casual film viewers might have a tougher time of things with Razzennest, though the spoken material provides plenty of food for thought, including historical, religious, and film observations. Grenzfurthner has crafted an unusual work that really is the type of film viewers need to see to decide whether or not it works for them. I found it an intriguing experience and some of the horror scenes painted highly disturbing images in my mind’s eye.(3 / 5)
Razzennest screened as part of Nightmares Film Festival, which took place in Columbus, Ohio from October 20th–23rd, 2022. For more information, visit https://nightmaresfest.com/.