The Enemy: Movie Review

Good performances salvage paranormal war film with a shaky metaphysical premise.

War itself is a horror but when Lucifer himself turns up — or does he? — a Bosnian commando unit starts tearing itself other apart in Dejan Zecevic’s paranormal thriller.

BELGRADE — Just days after the end of the Balkan War, a Bosnian commando unit starts tearing itself other apart in Dejan Zecevic’s paranormal thriller The Enemy, which closed the 39th Belgrade Fest. Strong performances, some witty dialogue and a genuinely ominous atmosphere keep viewers engrossed, but the film’s supernatural premise is superfluous given the context.

Nevertheless, production values are high and given that Serbian films are few and far between, The Enemy should do the rounds at festivals. The horror spin will entice home audiences otherwise saturated with war films, and theatrical releases are also ensured in the co-production countries: Croatia, Republika Srpska (Bosnia) and Hungary.

To show the universality of conflict, Zecevic and co-screenwriter Djordje Milosavljevic use a possibly demonic character as a metaphor for what drives friends and comrades to destroy one another. While that could explain the beginningsof violence, it’s foggy, philosophical overkill in a story set at the end of a bloody civil war.

The Enemy opens, intriguingly in total darkness with a POV shot from behind a wall that’s being torn down. As bricks crumble and light starting shining through, a man comes into view behind the wall, sitting at a table, calmly smoking a cigarette.

Next the story jumps to the soldiers, led by their commander Cole (Aleksandar Stojkovic), who joke as they deactivate the same field mines they planted during the war, which has been over for a week. Replacements are coming the following day so they banter about what they’re going to do when they get home. They are free men — almost.

Matters are first complicated with the arrival of Danica (Marija Pikic), a young woman whose abandoned country house the platoon has been occupying. She wants the soldiers out. Things get really twisted when they capture some enemy soldiers who in turn are holding the innocuous-looking Dada (Tihomir Stanic).

These soldiers freed Dada from behind the wall of a bombed-out factory, and claim he was “somehow just waiting for them.” Soon after, they started fighting and killing each other off. Everyone grows convinced that Dada is Lucifer himself, who has others do his bidding by planting seeds of discord.

Cole and his men laugh off the story but there’s something disquieting about the serene, middle-aged Dada, who doesn’t deny the accusations although he looks more like a shell-shocked peasant. However, the radio breaks down, replacements don’t arrive and the previous day’s mines are replanted, trapping the group in the house without access to the outside world.

As the claustrophobia and fear build, one by one the soldiers crack and turn on each other. The meek Dada looks on while Cole protects him, refusing to allow anyone to kill a civilian. Stanic doesn’t overdo his character’s ambiguity – just when you think he’s a half-wit, an evil glint escapes his eye. He’s properly elusive until the film’s open ending.

The sepia-toned Enemy isn’t gory as most of its violence is psychological. The suspense escalates nicely until the last act, when the supernatural mumbo-jumbo starts to sound silly.

Newcomer Pikic struggles a bit with her role in the otherwise strong cast. Noteworthy performances come from Stojkovic,Vuk Kostic as Cole’s second-in-command, and Ljubomir Bandovic, as a simpleton soldier who loses his mind.

Venue: Belgrade Fest (Out of competition)
Production companies: Biberche (Serbia), Balkan Film (Republika Srpska), Maxima Film (Croatia), Tivoli Film (Hungary)
Cast: Aleksandar Stojkovic, Vuk Kostic, Tihomir Stanic, Ljubomir Bandovic, Marija Pikic, Slavko Stimac, Dragomir Marinkovic, Goran Jokic, Stefan Bundalo
Director: Dejan Zecevic
Screenwriters: Djordje Milosavljevic, Dejan Zecevic
Producer: Nikolina Vucetic
Director of photography: Dusan Joksimovic
Production designer: Zorana Petrov
Music: Nemanja Mosurovic
Costume designer: Dragica Lausevic
Editor: Marko Glusac
No rating, 107 minutes