Extreme Horror | She’s a Megalomaniac In Surreal Serial Killer Feature

Content warning: discussion of rape

Karim Ouelhaj’s Megalomaniac presents us with the most twisted brother-sister combo since the Firefly clan raped and murdered their way crosscountry in The Devil’s Rejects. Using the real life unsolved Belgian murderer “The Butcher of Mons” as a starting point, Karim imagines that the killer of five women fathered two children – seemingly through rape and imprisonment. 

Their father may be dead but Felix (Benjamin Ramon) and Martha (Elaine Schumacher) are now fully grown. They reside in a large creepy mansion, reminiscent of the paper street squat in Fight Club. Felix (looking somewhere between Brad Dourif and Dani Filth) is continuing his father’s legacy of killing. Martha meanwhile is a troubled, lonely soul who toils at a menial night time janitor job in a factory. The siblings’ relationship is bizarre and domineering. 

Martha struggles with self-loathing due to her body image issues and imagines herself talking to another version of herself that chastises her. Early on two co-workers began to repeatedly rape her, which is made more disturbing by the fact her seemingly kindly boss overhears this and chooses to do nothing. 

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Martha is the heart of the film for me. Schumacher’s performance elicits sympathy, but as the film goes on we see she can be just as cruel and sadistic as those who abuse her. The film is about nature vs nurture, and the lines between victim and abuser.

The film first appeared on my radar after it shocked audiences on its 2022 run of genre festivals. People compared this Belgian film to the “new French extremity” of the 2000s, the trend of films like Martyrs, Haute Tension, Ils and the works of Gaspar Noé and Claire Denis. This also recalls the Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz (Calvaire, Alleluia). My interest was piqued, in the hopes that we would get the combination of high minded artistry and extreme brutality of the films of the period. 

The film is beautifully made. The surreal aspects (that we can mostly imagine are Martha’s perception ) add another layer to the film . Slow motion is beautifully employed, to show us blood spattering. On the downside the decision to use fade outs between scenes sometimes makes it feel like the film is cutting to ad breaks. 

The film arguably has an element of misogyny, and also using real life murders (with no mention of the victims names whatsoever) to launch this fictional story, is certainly questionable . 

The film is an atmospheric slow-burn that kept me intrigued till its explosive finale. Whilst Megalomaniac falls slightly short of entering the top tier of extreme horror – both in terms of quality and shocking aspects – it will still offer much to interest those with a taste for darker cinema. 

Megalomaniac is now streaming on Shudder 

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