Directed by Christian & Jason Bareford | Reviewed by Sayantan Mukherjee
Christian and Jason Bareford’s joint directorial venture “The Dirty Hands Man” starts with a grayscale shot of an interrogation scene in a dark room. A young boy with a deep injury on the side of his head waits for the police officers to arrive, burying his face into his arms. His tortured expressions reflect that he is possibly suffering from mental trauma. The boy looks upas two officers finally arrive to interrogate him, wishing Jakob, “Good Morning” as they take their seats with faces grave and forbidding. They want to talk about the “lake house case” from last night and warn him to not bullshit them. Jakob is visibly shaken from whatever has happened the day before and tries to narrate the events as they unfolded one after the other. Henceforth, the story begins.
Jakob’s story leads us away from this dark and claustrophobic interrogation room to a beautiful and idyllic American countryside as the black and white filter dissolves into full colour. We see a silver Mercedes driving up to a lake house and park beside a slew of other cars. The house is visibly quite elegant; indicating its ownership to an opulent family. Jakob and his girlfriend Kate climb out of the car and we find out that this is Kate’s family house. This is a vacation and Kate’s family has gathered here to spend time together. The couple head inside to find Catarina – a lady in black waiting for them, quite irritated at their sudden arrival. She is seemingly someone who maintains a degree of order in this house and her irritation is thus directed towards Jakob; a stranger who has showed up apparently unannounced. Catarina berates Jakob who just needs to use the washroom and asks him to do it in the woods.
This is the first family member of Kate we meet in the story and this sets us up for the various levels of weirdness we start encountering from here. We still do not know what fateful events will transpire later to put Jakob in the dark interrogation room but we get an understanding that not everything seems right here. Jakob meets Kate’s brother Robert, his self-absorbed girlfriend Ashley and a random guy named Shawn. Shawn seems to be distant from the rest of the family and is seen cutting away at a tree bark with an axe. The camera focuses on the axe for a while before moving on, thus setting up a disturbing turn of events which will occur later.
Kate asks Jakob whether he thinks her family is weird, a fact that she accepts as true already. The death of her parents has led to the siblings feeling unloved and detached over the course of years. Kate professes her insecurity about her brother moving away once the inheritance is settled; thus, leaving her alone entirely. Jakob is slowly learning about the family through Kate’s memories but is seemingly quite unfazed at the whole situation; owing to the fact that he himself has grown up without a mother and almost all families are weird in some way – a fact which he brings up to comfort Kate and make her feel at ease. Although there have been undertones of uneasiness in the whole situation thus far, there is no indication of an upcoming disaster yet.
The group of five – Jakob, Kate, Robert, Ashley and Shawn sit around a fire in the evening and enjoy drinking together. Jakob learns a lot about the family here and the family in turn learn about Jakob. This is where the film’s main exposition happens and the viewers are finally aware of the various twists and turns in the machinations behind the dysfunctional family. Chatting with friends around the fire by a lakeside usually paints a picture of bliss and serenity, but expectations are toppled when the low-key disturbing undertones that have been set-up till now; finally leads to a chilling pay off. The mostly benign story takes a turn for the opposite and jolts the viewer into a bloody path paved by twisted minds.
This short horror film might start inside an interrogation room and reveal that something dark has happened from the outset but throughout the entirety of Jakob’s narration of events, we are kept from guessing what it might actually be. This puts us in a similar position to the police officers for the most part, learning through Jakob’s testimony until the very end. But we do get a chance to peek into the actual twisted truth of the matter, which the officers can’t and this fact alone, turns “The Dirty Hands Man” from a passable thriller film to an interesting one.