Netflix continues to expand its international reach every year, allowing for productions from around the world to be seen and shared everywhere. Gone are the days when films from other countries were a rare item. Those were the days when you had to search through obscure channels to find and acquire something. Netflix has even allowed North American audiences to be more open to foreign productions, something that in the past was not seen very often.
This time, Netflix offers The Privilege, a German teen horror production that takes a lot of influence from American teen horror cinema. The film still manages to inject a bit of its own German flavor, and the result is something that lies in between the original and something that we have seen a million times before.
The Privilege is directed by Felix Fuchssteiner and Katharina Schöde. The film stars Max Schimmelpfennig, Lee Van Acken, Tijan Marei, and Milena Tscharntke and tells the story of Finn, a young man who, after the tragic death of his sister, tries to live a normal life. However, he finds that his parents might be guarding a secret that could change his and his friends’ lives forever.
The Privilege works like any typical teen horror movie, where the protagonist finds that something is very strange in his life, and then he and his friends go explore that mystery in search of answers. What makes this mystery different from all others is, of course, the answer to it, which, of course, I will not say in this review. However, it can be said that the film throws a lot of ideas at the screen to see what sticks. This method can be both good and bad, as you can feel that the movie is exploring all possibilities with its story, but it can also feel messy and directionless.
The Privilege, thus, falls into the second category, not only because there are too many ideas being thrown around but also because the ideas that ended up being selected as the main ones don’t really mix well. The movie deals with spirits and also parasites that can control minds. On paper, it sounds exciting and unique, but the way the movie tries to marry these two concepts feels half-baked. When the great resolution comes at the end, you know the writers didn’t think this very well.
The performances are fine. Schimmelpfennig is a great anchor for the audience and conveys the confusion and frustration of his character very well. It is easy to root for him when he goes in search of answers. Lee Van Acken is the other standout, and her presence is very welcome. She takes the role of “the fun one” in the group of protagonists and gives the movie great moments of levity.
Visually, the film feels very generic. Fuchssteiner and Schöde do not have the expertise or the imagination to take the film’s visuals to the same level. In comparison to other German Netflix productions like “Dark,” for example, you can feel the film’s visual language is too flat and boring.
This doesn’t mean that the film is badly made, not at all. The movie is well shot, and at least in the beginning, the editing makes things go smoothly. However, with today’s current overflow of content, trying to take your visuals and story to the next level is almost a must. The score by Philipp F. Kömel does its job, as it builds tension and releases it at the required moments, but it is nothing memorable. It isn’t the kind of score you would end up listening to on its own.
It is astounding how influential American horror cinema is. The Privilege uses the same tricks as countless other generic horror movies. Especially, when it makes use of the infamous jump scare technique a lot, and the execution is not the best. One of the last uses of this technique in the film is almost laughable in its execution. It is not scary, it is just annoying to turn up the volume of the film so much to incite a scary moment.
Let’s be fair. Making a horror movie is not easy. Nowadays, audiences have basically seen everything, and it is really hard to scare them. Finding new ways to scare people should be a priority for the genre. That is why seeing so many movies just sticking to the old formula and not changing anything about it feels disappointing. If the genre is to survive, it must take risks, and the staleness is palpable in each new release.
In trying to appeal to the global audience, they should just do their own thing instead of trying to copy the atmosphere and plot conventions of American horror cinema. The Privilege will not be the last Netflix European horror movie, for sure, but let’s hope the genre can find its own footing in that continent, so they can offer new and exciting things.