The Maus (2017) starring Alma Terzic, August Wittgenstein and Aleksander Seksan. Directed by Yayo Herrero.
One of the creepy things about movies like Deliverance is asking yourself what would you do in a similar situation? Everybody would feel vulnerable out in the sticks, outnumbered by a group of people who decide they want to mess with you.
In The Maus, we have a couple who are trekking through a forest in Bosnia after their car breaks down. The guy is German and the girl is Bosnian but lucky for us they communicate through English. Turns out the girl has just buried the remains of her father which have finally been recovered from the Bosnian conflict. Then in true Deliverance fashion a couple of creepy guys offer to help them navigate their way through the mine infested forest. The boyfriend knows something is off and the audience really feels the tension and mounting unease as the weirdos bark orders at each other and cast sideways glances while all the time speaking a foreign language. The terrified girlfriend tries to warn her boyfriend that they are in danger but the men are having none of it and insist on accompanying the couple.
Here the audience is basically in the position of the boyfriend. He’s in a foreign country, lost in the woods, his girlfriend is terrified, people are screaming at each other in a foreign language and he can’t understand a word. He tries to use his cell phone to get help but can’t understand or make himself understood even if he were able to give directions to his location.
After the girlfriend is injured after their dog sets off a landmine things take a turn for the worse. The weirdos offer of help involves taking the couple to an old bunker left over from the conflict. To make matters worse, it turns out the weirdos are Serbians and decide to have a little fun with the Bosnian girl for old time’s sake.
As the girl is marched into the bunker we get flashbacks from the conflict and we learn that the girl witnessed the death of her father at the hands of the Serbians as well as all the genocide and mass rape that took place in her home country.
Several times during the film, things get ambiguous. The girl has a necklace given to her by her father that is said to be able to protect her and under several key scenes of extreme stress, a strange mythical type creature can be seen in the background but we never find out if this is real or just all in the girl’s mind. There’s also a rape scene which we can’t be sure happened or not. Did it happen? If so, why doesn’t she tell her boyfriend? Maybe it was a flashback to the war or maybe it’s her fear of the Serbian men and her expectation of being raped that leads to her mind conjuring up the whole scene? Who fucking knows?
The boyfriend’s attitude to the whole situation tends to make him come across as an asshole. He ignores his girlfriend’s obvious discomfort and at one point even apologises to the men for her behaviour! Also after the pair have been beaten and abused he warns his girlfriend that they must call the police and if she takes matters into her own hands then the relationship is over. Is this guy a total dick or what?
Despite these negatives, The Maus is a great film and really ratchets up the tension. I’ve never seen a forest in broad daylight look so menacing and creepy. Sometimes just the way the forest goes deathly silent sets your nerves on edge.
The cast give great performances and the fact that the film’s subject matter is taken from real life atrocities committed less than thirty years ago just add to the uncomfortable feeling you get from this film.
If you fancy a slice of realistic horror that deals with rape, genocide and xenophobia and can get past the ambiguities (including the film’s final scene), then you’ll have a good time with this.