Director: Dick Maas
Year of release: 1988
Country of origin: Netherlands
Running time: 109 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Taglines: "Be glad you're afraid, it means you're still alive" and "The city is murder".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The city of Amsterdam is left reeling when a number of grisly murders occur which leave the local police baffled. Hard-boiled Detective Eric Visser, a man known for getting results is assigned the task of cracking the case. With the aid of both his work partner and a new love interest, Visser soon discovers that the killer has a background in diving. It appears as if the villain is using the many miles of canals snaking through the city to get around and strike out at his victims when they least expect it. Under pressure from his bosses and the Mayor, Visser must bring the man to justice before the city is awash in a river of blood.
Good points: *It’s a refreshing change how the killer predominantly operates underwater, using the waterways as a means of getting around and concealing himself before pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Having so many canals as it does, the city of Amsterdam as a setting really goes hand in hand with this idea. Water being used to such prominent effect is something seldom seen in the slasher genre with maybe The Drownsman being one of the only other high profile example of something going down a similar path. When done right this film proves the concept has legs. It’s nice how it has almost a Jaws type feel with the water itself seeming dangerous and nearly a second villain in its own right.
Tying in with the water theme the killers diving outfit complete with flippers looks cool. It did remind me of the miner from My Bloody Valentine but it’s a wet suit obviously so not really the same at all. It does the job and helps cement the water theme.
Big spoiler: I also liked the disfigured face hidden beneath the diving mask when revealed at the end. Always a fun touch.
*Much like another hybrid film Maniac Cop this can also double as a thriller or even action movie with a couple of the stunt sequences which make up these parts really standing out. Most notably there is a memorable speedboat chase scene throughout the busy canals. This must have been a nightmare to shoot for a relatively small budget film especially way back in the late eighties but it still holds up well today. There’s also another chase scene involving a motorbike which in itself is very decent.
*There’s a likeable cast with the two main players of Detective Visser and his new girlfriend Laura having good chemistry together. These two are very solid but I also liked some of the other support role characters such as Visser’s partner on the force as well as his sassy daughter Anneke. The mysterious psychologist friend of Laura’s is also a worthy addition.
Bad Points: *The script could have done with a little more polish as there are a couple of things which get quietly dropped. Firstly there was a subplot I was enjoying involving Anneke and her psychic school friend Willy. The pair set about trying to solve the case themselves but this is dropped as things go on and not mentioned again. I was half expecting this to play into he finale with perhaps the two youngsters biting off more than they could chew leading to them being taken hostage by the killer to use as leverage against Visser. That seemed the logical conclusion anyway but as I say this aspect of things wasn’t continued after some early scenes.
Mild spoiler: On a somewhat similar note and to a lesser degree I also found it disappointing not to learn anything more about the guy who made a run for it on the motorcycle. After he was caught I didn’t like how he disappeared after being questioned. Ultimately he wasn’t the right criminal of course so it wasn’t important but he must have been guilty of something to have run off the way he did so I would have liked to have learnt a bit more about him.
Another weakness relating to the script is that there aren’t enough potential suspects or red herrings in the mix. If not counting the guy on the motorbike mentioned above (and I don’t seeing that he was a random guy we hadn’t seen anything of prior to the chase) then there is only the psychologist as a potential suspect. One or two more possibilities would have made for a more compelling story.
*Big spoiler: The ending comes across as a little flat as there is no big fight scene or proper confrontation with the killer and the protagonists. Instead the bad guy kills himself before the police even show up so. It feels anticlimactic especially taking into account some of the exciting set pieces which had proceeded it earlier in the film. You could say it peaked too early.
Verdict: After learning that this was a mix of various genres I wasn’t overly keen on checking it with my copy sitting untouched on the shelf for some time. After giving it a chance though I was pleasantly surprised as I liked it more than anticipated. The novel idea of the killer lurking in the water together with the wet suit costume and Amsterdam setting give it a big push in the right direction. A likeable cast also impress but I do feel as if the script/story was lacking in certain areas. The ending was a bit of a let down for me also but by and large this is well worth your time.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Prostitute: Stabbed multiple times. Body later strung up in the path of a passing boat.
2)Water sample guy #1: Pulled beneath the water and beheaded.
3)Water sample guy #2: Pulled back into the water to be killed off camera after almost making it to shore.
4)Female Salvation Army charity collector: Pulled into canal. Body later dredged up by a boat cleaning the water.
5)Sunbathing girl: Stabbed between the legs (as camera cuts away).
6)Old sailor: His boat sinks and his body is later found underwater by cop.
7)Diver cop with blonde hair: Stabbed underwater.
8)Killer: Shoots himself in the mouth with harpoon gun.
Review added on the 24th of June 2020.