In Flanders, three physically disabled musicians want a drummer for their punk rock outfit. Fuelled by the notion that they only want to perform once at a local battle-of-the-bands, they approach Dries, a famous writer to join their group. Surmising that Dries’s complete inability to play the drums can be his “handicap”, they decide to call themselves The Feminists as an affront to modern values. However, does Dries really want to be in the group or does he have a darker, much more selfish purpose? …
… a film that solely thrives and glorifies in its own ambition to disgust.
Director Koen Mortier‘s debut feature Ex Drummer is a film that starts well. Displaying more visual flourishes in the first five minutes than a pack of Tarantino trade-ins, you would seem to be in for a real treat. However though, almost immediately after that very first bite, the film savagely cracks your sweet tooth with jarring scenes of misogyny and sexual violence. Women are preyed upon, beaten and raped and the whole visual grotesqueness of it all very quickly knocks you sideways.
So having hooked up with Dries Vanhegen‘s louche middle-class writer Dries, you imagine that he will be the film’s conduit into some kind of deeper understanding. Instead, it quickly becomes apparent that he is the worst kind of parasite, who positions himself as a solution whilst plotting the downfall of all those around him. Deliberately goading and antagonising his low-rent bandmates into more and more extreme acts of racism, sexism and homophobia the remainder of Ex Drummer becomes a checklist as to what sensibility will be affronted next.
Willfully dragging you knee-deep into more and more squalor, the movie becomes a diet of cause and effect violence, unnecessary suffering and cruelty which teases an eventual insight. Is there a purpose? Is there a meaning to a story where every individual is a hairline trigger away from even more outrage? In short, the simple answer is no. In fact, you’ll know when the game is up when, like me, you start playing bullshit bingo on a napkin as to which “hot potato” the filmmakers are going to roast next. As Dries Vanhegen puffs away on cigarettes that never seem to finish and the film offers its last pretentious white flag of a credits sequence scrolling backwards, you’ll then know this turkey has lost all its feathers.
In the end, unlike previous audience-splitters like Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible or Lars Von Trier’s more recent The House That Jack Built, Ex Drummer is just a hedonistic full-frontal assault that isn’t interested in either redemption or deeper meaning. As a film that solely thrives and glorifies in its own ambition to disgust, this is a movie that is as pretentious as its protagonist – and maybe that’s the point. So desperate to shock and so keen to be talked about, maybe I’ve done more than enough of that now and I should stop right here, lest I make it any more nihilistically attractive.
However, if there’s one thing you definitely can be sure of, this is one cult film that the American’s won’t be re-making – or at least not with the same blood, sex and violence.