Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Belgian horror flick Megalomaniac is one seriously moody little French movie. I am not sure why I ever assumed it would be anything less—one glance at the description provided for this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival should have told me all I needed to know. Two children of an infamous never-caught serial killer, The Skinner of Mons, are now fully grown and carrying intense trauma of their own. To call them troubled would be putting it mildly, in fact. Writer/director Karim Ouelhaj crafts a shocking slow-burn that culminates in a delicious bloodbath of chaos.

Martha (Eline Schumacher) does janitorial work at a local factory, while living with her unstable brother, Felix (Benjamin Ramon), who kills women on the side. It must be said that their serial-killer dad is barely mentioned within the context of the story, though the individual does pop up on more than one occasion in a nightmare vision kind of way. Martha, who simply wants to do her work and get out of there, begins getting taunted by two of the workers. One in particular, Luc (Pierre Nisse), pees where she has just cleaned, and taunts her by referring to Martha as a “disgusting bitch.”

Things take a turn for the ugly once Luc gets physical with Martha. After a brutal rape occurs for the first time, Martha will not disclose her reasons for being cagey or withdrawn to her concerned brother, Felix. Not that he seems too wrapped up in her drama at first—Felix kills women as a sort of side hobby, kidnapping them and torturing them to their breaking points. He forces Martha to return to work, unbeknownst to the abuse she is receiving. The twisted blood of their father flows through both Martha and Felix, so it is only a matter of time before the two of them are swept up into his vicious, murderous orbit.

Megalomaniac allows its characters to breathe, while keeping the pace up with ratcheting tension. I was on the edge of my seat as the movie approached its explosive climax, praying for an ending that would satisfy. Relentless gore and surprising brutality are on the docket! Whatever other tricks Karim Ouelhaj has up his sleeve will be welcomed with open arms after bearing witness to his originality and sense of clear vision. Megalomaniac approaches heavy topics with a bluntness that remains refreshing in today’s climate. Half cringe horror treat, half psychological case study, Megalomaniac presents one truly twisted family portrait.

Megalomaniac screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

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