Ginger Nuts of Horror
Dir. Andreas Marschall, Germany, 106 min
Director Andreas Marschall certainly announced himself on my ‘talent to watch’ list with his fantastic instalment of German Angst, an excellent anthology film from 2015 in which his closing segment ‘Alraune’ was a real standout. It’s one of this bits of film with still lives in my head to this day, so I was coming to Tears of Kali with high expectations, if no real preset idea of what to expect.
I was not surprised and nor was I disappointed to find this was another anthology film, although in this case all three chapters were directed by Marschall. The trio of stories are held together by a linking thread of an extreme psychological experiment carried out in India, looking to delve deep into the human psyche. While that turned out not to be a real historical basis, it certainly felt pretty real and believable. The ‘linking’ sections feature another pretty creepy performance from German veteran Peter Martell (also known for Marian Dora’s deeply disturbing Melancholie Der Engel) and are ultimately pretty light-touch.
Each story also has a pretty strong link to religion, and whilst I enjoyed all three, I think the opener was my very favourite. ‘Shakti’ sees a reporter visiting a convicted murderer who was part of the Taylor-Eriksson 'cult' in an effort to get a fresh take on the events of that time. The chemistry between the two actresses in this portion is really great, and the final reveal – despite one slightly cheesy effect – did genuinely get to me. I don’t remember the last time I actually held my breath during a horror film, but that was the exact effect here.
Our second instalment, ‘Devi’, sees a young man on remand from prison attending sessions with a psychologist who studied under the Taylor-Eriksson group. It’s immediately apparent that the method will be unusual, but it soon comes to light exactly how extreme the method will be in order to save the patient from his own demons. It’s done without being gratuitous, and while the cast is again limited the two, the interaction there feels more than strong enough to carry the relatively simple story.
The final act of our movie is ‘Kali’, which features a man and a woman trapped with some sort of creature that they are trying to escape from. While it might start out as pretty standard fare, again the connection to the cult and its dark psychology does become apparent. Whilst there were elements to like here, I thought this was the weakest link of the three, not helped by a distinctly cliché finale.
Tears of Kali feels pretty tight and well-constructed, and it’s fair to say that the whole 105 minute runtime really shot by, to the extent when I was slightly surprised when the credits rolled – always a compliment to a movie when you barely notice time passing at all. What impressed me most about Marschall’s Alraune – and held true again here – was just how this director is able to build and then hold tension. The first part of that equation is not easy, but the second is even more difficult. There were moments where if you’d snuck up on me or rung my phone I would have absolutely jumped out of my skin, because I was waiting so much for something to happen. Marschall stretches tension like an elastic band and only lets it go when the band is on the very verge of snapping – there’s no desire for jumpscares even when lazier directors would pile them on.
Add to that some very solid acting performances, a strong mythology behind it – part of me was itching to dive onto the internet and read more about it, only to find it was never a real thing! – and some fine scares and it adds up to a pretty memorable film. My only criticism would be that a few of the effects don’t look all that great, but that’s simply a side effect of filmmaking on a budget, and you can bet you’ve seen plenty worse to boot. If you don’t like anthologies, you might want to steer clear, but other than I’d recommend this one to anyone who likes indy horror and extreme horror.
RATING: 9/10. Film Gutter’s jaunts to Germany have often paid dividends, and Tears of Kali is no different at all. A fascinating example of the anthology film, this single-director movie dips nicely into Hinduism and draws out some impactful threads. It’s nicely shot, and keeps things simple and low-key to great effect all the way. The minimal cast all perform well in their roles, and each section of the movie has good ideas and generally very strong execution. As such, it has to be a highly commendable 9/10 from me.