International Horror Review: Amsterdamned (dir by Dick Maas)


“You’ve been Amsterdamned!”

Okay, no one actually says that in the 1988 Dutch film, Amsterdamned.  However, I will admit that, while I was watching the movie on Shudder, I said it after every single murder.  Seriously, it’s just too good to resist.  Whatever else you might want to say about this movie, you can not deny the power of that title.  How many people have watched this movie just because it’s called Amsterdamned?  I would guess a few thousand at least.

As for the film itself, it deals with a murderous diver who swims through the famous canals of Amsterdam and kills just about anyone they come across.  Our diver is not one to discriminate when it comes to selecting their victims.  They may start out killing a prostitute but soon, they’re targeting environmentalists, boat captains, cops, and perhaps even the girlfriend of Amsterdam’s top cop, Eric Visser (Huub Stapel).  Visser is one of those cops who drinks too much, doesn’t spend enough time with his daughter, and who is still bitter about his divorce.  It’s nice to see that “Cops Who Play By Their Own Set Of Rules” are not a uniquely American phenomenon.  Of course, since Eric is Dutch, his partner is named Vermeer (Serge-Henri Valcke).  It doesn’t take Eric and Vermeer long to figure out that Amsterdam has a serial killer haunting the canals.

Amsterdamned is a mix of a slasher film and an action film.  The highpoint of the film is a pretty exciting speedboat chase between Eric and the Killer, which features some truly spectacular stunts and which definitely shows that director Dick Maas can handle directing action.  At the same time, though, the film is also full of point-of-view shots of the diver emerging from the canals and stalking their next victim.  The diver is an effectively creepy villain and the film makes good use of the idea that practically anybody or anything could be hiding under the water.  I haven’t been to Amsterdam but I have been to Venice and I can tell you, canals are both beautiful and frightening at the same time.  It’s had not to look down at the water and to consider all of the secrets that could be hidden under that murky surface.  The comparison between the canals of Amsterdam and the canals of Venice is an apt one, if just because Amsterdamned is pretty much a Dutch version of an Italian giallo films.  While it’s not as mean-spirited as the infamous Giallo in Venice, it’s just as much a whodunit as it is a standard slasher film.

It’s a film that has its effective moments, though it’s also a film that has some pretty glaring flaws.  With a nearly two-hour running time, it’s at least 30 minutes too long and the film occasionally seems to get bogged down with the details of Eric’s personal life, as if the filmmakers didn’t understand that all they had to do was tell us that Eric was a hard-drinking, independent-minded detective and we, as experienced film watchers, would be able to fill in the rest of the details for ourselves.  When the killer’s identity is revealed, it’s a bit of a let down and it’s hard not to feel that the movie didn’t exactly play fair with its audience.  Even with all that in mind, though, there’s enough creepy moments to make Amsterdamned worth visiting.

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