The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: AMSTERDAMNED (1988)

Damon Swindall

by: Damon Swindall
July 6th, 2011

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago, Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS Box art

This year at Horror Movie Night there was a conscious decision on the beginning and ending films to celebrate the work of a certain Dutch director. It kicked off with his 1983 film DE LIFT (aka THE LIFT/ELEVATOR) which is about a sentient killer elevator and ending with his own 2001 remake of the same film. This particular filmmaker has made many films but few of them horror. Luckily, our weekly programmer Brian Kelley was able to pick another and slate it for halfway through the year to keep the magic alive. The film - AMSTERDAMNED. The director - the one, and only, Dick Maas. Yes, that is one of the greatest names ever.

The canals in Amsterdam and beautiful. Usually they are a big area for tourism with many shops all around and boats in the water, but now something else lurks in the waters. No sharks here, folks, just an old-fashioned psycho staying under the cover of the murky water in his scuba gear and attacking the unsuspecting unlucky people nearby. Cop Eric Visser (Huub Stapel) is on the case, but is having a hard time tracking down the man behind the face mask. He goes on the hunt and ends up playing the typical game of cat and mouse all over Amsterdam, but with some very cool sequences for the audience along the way.

This is a very different movie than I would have imagined. It’s not so much a slasher like the time period would suggest but more of a Dutch giallo (if there is such a thing). The pace, the killer, the police procedural aspects all lean toward that murder mystery suspense stuff the Italians made famous. Unfortunately, this does not build as much suspense as one would hope. Large parts are rather boring and the body count or characters don’t really do a lot to keep you in the story. Still, there are a few shining moments of both awesome and hilarity within the confines of the opening and closing credits.

The young stylish Willy

The fashions, sweet Jeebus, the fashions. There are some of the normal '80s staples, but that’s not what really stands out. Everyone knows the huge dangled hoop earrings, perms, and bright colors, but on a wetsuit? These divers wear the brightest yellow I believe I’ve ever seen! They look like bananas. Still, they are nothing compared to young Willy. This is Visser’s daughter’s, Anneke, really good friend who wears the same outfit throughout the whole film even though at least a few days pass. As you can see by the above photo he looks like some sort of extra for a Boyz II Men music video or something. No wonder he never gets anywhere with Anneke.

One bit of costuming that is good is that of the killer. Instead of a black trench coat and matching large brimmed hat that most giallo murderers wear, here it’s all traded for a black wetsuit with all the bells and whistles. His face mask alone is super creepy and something about the whole ensemble has him almost resembling Frankenstein from DEATH RACE 2000. This outfit isn’t purely superficial but practical and must be at least a little bulletproof. He does get shot several times while wearing it, including in the face (!), but manages to escape relatively unscathed.

The Diver Killer on the run

Basically this movie boils down to four things. These aspects are what make it enjoyable and worth the time to watch. Here they are, in no particular order.

The First Kill - This is not the actual kill itself because it’s nothing out of the ordinary, just a wide shot of the scuba maniac stabbing a hooker and dragging her into the canal. The next day is where it gets interesting. In broad daylight a boat is travelling through the canals with a tour guide giving her spiel on the city to a group of tourists. The dead girl's body is hanging from a bridge ahead of them and the driver doesn’t see it in time to move which causes it to be dragged across the clear glass roof. Blood is smeared along the whole way as dozens of Boy Scouts, other children, and even nuns scream their heads off. This ends with her lifeless corpse falling through an open roof panel and hanging before them. Brilliant!

Just hangin' around

Anneke - Eric’s daughter is a definite highlight and there should be much more of her. When we first meet her it’s when she’s going into the bathroom while her father is soaking in the bathtub and pointing a gun at him. This is not the type of relationship I’ve had with my parents, maybe some of you have, but this does not seem normal. She proceeds to complain about him wasting time in the water, needing to go to school, the high crime rate when it comes to stolen bicycles and then the phone rings. In her finest moment, the young girl tells her father's boss in the police force that “he’s in the john, I expect that he’s masturbating.” Oh Anneke, you card. Her comedic timing is something that happens a couple more times in the film but nothing matches this outstanding phone conversation.

End Credits Song - This is almost my favorite moment in the whole film! No joke. Nothing like the poppy synth tunes of an '80s soundtrack song, with the same title as the film, to get your toe tapping. Here, just take a sampling of the brilliant lyrics: “Something, something terrible awaiting / You find you cannot escape him / You can’t hide, can you hear him breathing? / (It’s so cold, so dark in the night) / Amsterdamned, Amsterdamned / Ohhh-ohhh / This place is damned (damned).” The band who wrote and performed that song is a Dutch girl group by the name of Loïs Lane, which consists of two sisters. The song actually reached to number 33 slot on the charts in the Netherlands! Loïs Lane is still together and the siblings even posed for their country’s version of Playboy about six years ago. Not too shabby, I must say.


HAVE A LISTEN TO THE SONG!!!

The Boat Chase - Finally we get to, without a doubt, the best part of the whole movie. As Eric is hot on the tail of the killer, he escapes in a speedboat which forces our hero cop to hop in one of his own and go on the chase. What follows is a stunt filled high speed chase through the canals of Amsterdam (though much of it was filmed in nearby city called Utrecht) for just under seven glorious minutes. No doubt about it, this pursuit really makes the whole film! I’m fairly certain this was Maas’ intentions behind making AMSTERDAMNED to begin with, just for one kick-ass boat chase full of cool stunts, explosions and a full brass band. This definitely takes the cake as the most exciting boat hunt ever*.

Our killer in action underwater

This movie might be rather slow and have little in the way of real suspense, but it’s still worth a watch. The chase scene alone is so kick-ass that it makes it a definite recommend. No current U.S. DVD release that I know of so be on the hunt for a VHS if you want to see it or import from another region. Where else are you going to get such beautiful close-ups of a CD player in a horror/thriller film? To be fair, it was the late '80s and they were kind of a big deal.

Until next week - just stick to the “coffee houses” in Amsterdam and you should be fine.

Body Count: 8
Best Death: Girl on the inner tube in the canal, even though it’s off screen
Number of Chase Scenes: 3
Number of Modes of Transportation Used in Chases: 6 (including a horse)

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-7/6/11: THE DARK POWER (1985)
-7/13/11: RITUALS (1977)
-7/20/11: DEADLINE (1981)
-7/27/11: TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980) Christmas in July!

*Full disclosure: This may be the only notable boat chase I’ve ever seen in a film. Still, it’s totally rad!

Bad day for inner tubes

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