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A lot of bad stuff happens in Drafthouse Film’s ‘Nothing Bad Can Happen’

Charles Ealy

It’s not at all clear who the target market is for “Nothing Bad Can Happen,” the new release from Austin-based Drafthouse Films.

The German drama premiered in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival to loud boos from critics – and this was in front of director Katrin Gebbe, who was in the audience.

But Tim League of Drafthouse Films clearly saw something in it that many critics did not. And since that premiere, “Nothing Bad” has attracted a following among horror fans after it played at Fantastic Fest and other showings. .

Gebbe told a Melbourne, Australia, newspaper that she expected the Cannes screening to be controversial. “We had boos and cheers, escapees and long-standing ovations. It was intense. I think we stirred up a hornets’ nest. And that is what artists should do.”

Well, I was at the official Cannes premiere, and I don’t recall standing ovations or any significant amount of cheering, at least not from critics. But Gebbe did have a sizable entourage in the theater, and some of them probably tried to drown out the booing.

The story, which Gebbe based on real-life events in Germany, centers on a young man named Tore (Julius Feldmeier), who belongs to a punk-like group that calls themselves Jesus Freaks. There’s no doubt that Tore is sincere in his beliefs in Christ.

But what follows is a horror story of sadism that makes the Crucifixion “seem like the easy way out,” as Variety’s Scott Foundas put it after the Cannes screening. And it’s doubtful that many evangelical Christians will be attracted to this tale, which includes graphic scenes of rape and other brutalities.

The trouble begins when Tore meets a family whose vehicle has broken down. He approaches the father, Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) and says that he thinks he can get the vehicle running again by laying his hands on the hood. And lo and behold, the engine starts running.

Benno is impressed enough with Tore’s feat that he eventually invites the young man to live outside his house, in a tent in his garden. And it looks as though Tore, a clear loner and outcast, might have found a safe haven.

It doesn’t take long, however, to realize that Benno has an incredibly sadistic streak, which leads to all manner of cruelties, tortures and exploitation. Trying to stay true to his religious beliefs, Tore turns the other cheek.

Gebbe seems to be trying to do something interesting with this tale. But it’s not clear exactly what she’s trying to do. Some might see the movie as investigation into evil – a preoccupation of German artists since the Holocaust.

But if that’s Gebbe’s aim, then the question arises: Why put Tore through such explicit, repeated horrors? Is “Nothing Bad Can Happen” meant as an allegory, or is it trying to add depth and heft to an essentially horrific tale?

If you choose to go see it, you can make up your own mind. By the third act, however, you might wish that you had stayed home.

‘Nothing Bad Can Happen’