When the brutally mutilated body of a hooker is discovered suspended from a bridge in the heart of Amsterdam’s popular tourist district the city’s police fear the worst. Within days further murders confirm their suspicions – a serial killer is on the loose and is using the vast network of canals to traverse the city before dragging unsuspecting victims to their watery graves and escaping detection by hiding in the darkness beneath the surface.
Fearing an outbreak of mass hysteria and a serious blow to the tourist trade should the news break to the public, the mayor demands swift action from the authorities. The police respond by assigning their best man, Detective Visser (Hube Stapel), to the case. Figuring the killer must be someone with scuba diving experience, Visser begins his investigation at the city’s principal sub-aqua club where he meets and befriends an attractive woman diver, Laura (Monique van de Ven), and her therapist, who was also once a diving enthusiast. Meanwhile, as the body count begins to rise, Visser’s adolescent daughter and her school friend have unwisely decided to try and track down the killer themselves.
Dick Maas had achieved level of outside of his native Netherlands with 1983 evil elevator movie De Lift. In his home country he was more known for directing the trashy Flodder in 1986, a film about a working class family moving into a rich suburb for some far-fetched reason.He followed up his two big hits with what has since become a cult favourite: Amsterdamned.
In the 25 years since the release of this title it has become a little hard to get hold of. Readily available on DVD in The Netherlands and, oddly, France the movie has had a couple of limited disc releases. One being in 2009 by French label Nouveaux Pictures and the second in late 2012 from Shameless Entertainment. While the ’09 issue has a BBFC 15 certificate, the ’12 release is given a higher rating of 18.
Watching the film now, it does not have the nudity, swearing or violence in it that would warrant an 18 certificate. The BBFC website list that when it was released at UK cinema’s, in early 1989, it was an 18 with 7 seconds cut. Video release, later in the year, was also 18 with just 6 seconds trimmed.
It was re-submitted by Nouveaux 20 years later and was given a lower rating plus all cuts were restored. It is odd that the more recent release would claim to have a high rating. Perhaps Shameless were banking on the lure of the infamous 18 certificate to get more customers?
The film itself holds up well by 2013 standards. Most the fashions on display are actually ‘in style’ a quarter of a century later. The streets and canals of Amsterdam appear almost exactly the same as today. Maas’s direction is solid and the pace he delivers is fluent. The movie never drags or become dull. The most exciting scene is an extended speedboat chase, involing Visser following the killer, which makes fantastic use of the famed narrow canals. Just as the chase appears to be over it takes an unexpected turn that would put most Hollywood blockbusters to shame. The only real issue with what happens on screen is when a young, bikini clad woman is sunbathing in a inflatable raft in one of the canals. Sunbathing in the canal, is that something residents do in Amsterdam?
Such silly questions are put aside when the killer strikes in a truly crude and vulgar way. Not one for females to witness. This scene will no doubt be why the film originally had 7 seconds cut by the BBFC. The end of Amsterdamned is compelling too, as Visser finally tracks down the killer with another unexpected turn of events thrown in to shock viewers.
There is also a subplot involving Vissers daughter Anneke (Tatum Dagelet) and her friend Willy (Edwin Bakker), a boy who claims to be physic. They are shown throughout trying to talk to ghosts, locate the killer with Willy’s powers (oo-er) and rushing to the hospital when Visser has been attacked by the killer.
It is after this scene, Visser bailing on the kids to finally catch the killer, that the children are not seen anymore. What happened to them? Did they return to their homes? Did they stay at the hospital until they were told otherwise? It seems these characters just exist to pad out the run time and make the lead role, Visser, seem like the super cop who is also a single parent. However, he comes across as a neglectful father as he spends all night searching for the killer and even chasing women. In one scene he laughingly tells Laura that his daughter is use to him being out all night when asked if his child is alright by herself. The funniest and smuttiest line of the film involves Laura.
When Visser is stood on a dock by a river, she emerges in a wetsuit and climbs up next to him, her bust thrusting out at the camera. Visser looks her up and down, then slyly says “You’re wet.” What a charmer.
It is easy to see why Amsterdamned has gained a cult following since its release. Overall it is a good film plus has some convincing and unique kills as well as that speedboat chase scene. In an era of remake happy studios, is Amsterdamned not ready for the reboot treatment? 8 out of 10.
About James Simpson
A freelance writer and lover of movies, James is a long term contributor to UK Horror Scene. He has a regular feature on UKHS, World of Horror, as well as reviewing and interviewing when he can. He also writes for Gore Splattered Corner and Space Monsters Magazine. He has previously written for Scream Magazine and Zombie Hamster. Twitter: @JSimpsonWriter