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Night Visions: Holy Shit!
Bad taste has made good taste.
(This is part of our Night Visions Back to Basics 2022 festival coverage.
There’s a thin line between good taste, bad taste, and bad taste that goes right back to good taste.
Holy Shit!, the feature debut from Lukas Rinker, swirls around all three of these, only gaining frantic momentum before the end. You could compare it to a flushed toilet in a way. I won’t, but you could.
Thankfully, Rinker isn’t content with just bad taste. Though there’s plenty of it to go around. Holy Shit! is also remarkably aware of its genre conventions, and not afraid to use them to the full extent. Most of the fun with these closed-room-thrillers is seeing just how badly the odds are stacked against our hero. On that front, Holy Shit! delivers in spades. Just as you think things can’t get any worse, they somehow do.
The whole outrageous mess revolves around Frank. A hapless architect who awakens in a horrid porta-potty with no memory of how he got there. His arm is pierced by a hilariously long steel rod, which prevents any movement beyond a few painful wriggles. There’s a phone in the toilet. Naturally, it rests on a velvety pile of crap. A torn nude calendar drips water on him - at least one hopes it's water.
In the distance, Frank can hear the smug tones of the local mayor, Horst. He’s announcing the demolition of a decrepit historical building that’s taking place in mere hours. Everything around it will go too, including Frank and his scatological sarcophagus.
Everything that happens next is best experienced firsthand. It’s not always successful and even at 85 minutes Holy Shit! does feel like it outstays its welcome. But in those moments that it does work, Rinker’s debut is so outrageously zany that you can’t help but marvel at the bravado. It’s juvenile and violent, but also disarmingly funny and oddly engaging all at once.
This is mainly thanks to a fantastic leading performance from Thomas Niehaus, who never under or oversells the situation. While the rest of the film is like an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, Niehaus ground it in relatable frustration and panic. Supporting him is the fantastic Gedeon Burkhard, whose infinitely punchable Horst is the perfect villain you love to hate.
First films like these are always a delight. They’re always loaded with enough piss and vinegar to fill a colosseum. Rinker’s film doesn’t always know when to stop, and some gags go on for too long to be funny. But there’s also sophistication to the madness; a natural sense that Rinker understands how to toy with his audience in the same style as Sam Raimi.
It’s in those moments that Holy Shit! feels like something special. Like Why Don’t You Just Die! from a few years back, it’s a stylish calling card brimming with promise. And while not everyone will fall for its deeply black comedy, others will find that Holy Shit! more than lives up to its name.