There is a serial killer at bay in Amsterdam's canal network and the race is on to stop him before mass hysteria grips the nation. Dick Maas's cult slasher movie starts as it means to go on when the predator leaves the protective habitat of the dark canal to claim his first victim before dragging her back into a watery grave.
“It looks like they’ve been sampled by the water monster.”
I first heard of Amsterdamned from an Australian video clerk some years ago. “It’s like JAWS meets Dirty Harry!” he said waving his arms around wildly. Usually a description like that turns me off expecting a shoddy Z grade flick barely worth watching. Frankly, there are enough action movies out there with tough cops to last a lifetime. Why waste my time on an obscure Dutch thriller with few legitimate home video releases available? After finally seeing Amsterdamned I am happy to report it isn’t anything like that clerk’s description. However, I’d understand if it would hook you into seeing this Dutch giallo cop thriller with the best speed boat chase you’ve ever seen.
A serial killer is stalking the canals of Amsterdam looking for easy victims. Using scuba gear to maneuver through the waterways, the maniac is slicing through everyone who gets too close to the water. On the case is the best damn cop in the city, Eric Visser (Hub Stapel). The divorced dad rises from his bubble bath only to step in cat food...“Morning, Amsterdam” he mumbles, before arriving late to a crime scene after thwarting a robbery straight out of Dirty Harry. The killer continues his rampage through the city grabbing a Salvation Army bell ringer and even slicing through a bikini sunbather with a clever homage to JAWS. During the investigation, Visser meets and falls for Laura -- a museum guide and recreational diver played by Monique van de Ven. The bodies pile up as Visser races through the city chasing leads, bedding hot women and looking cool the whole time. Like any good cop thriller you’ve got red herrings, dead ends, and a twist or two that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.
From Dutch director Dick Maas, Amsterdamned is frequently lobbed into the slasher subgenre due to the killer’s theatrical slicing and dicing of this victims. The film works more as a part-time giallo with some incredible action scenes thrown in, rather than a true slasher. Maas balances the proceedings by injecting a fair amount of dry humor, making even our grizzled lead detective more than a boring stereotype with sunglasses. Look out for Visser’s teenage daughter Anneke hurling hilarious insults at her lazy dad and the near-slapstick Inspector Vermeer. The cast settles into their characters nicely from the start playing everything straight even when the dialogue veers awfully close to cop parody.
Maas uses the picturesque features of Amsterdam to give the film an identity rarely seen in action thrillers. With locations throughout the city Maas is able to provide everything from grungy red light district murder scenes to quaint cobbled streets filled with tourists. Maas received total cooperation from the city to make his film. Thankfully that included filming two thrilling chase sequences through the city streets and canals. While the motorcycle chase is an exciting sequence worth noting it’s the speed boat chase that requires more attention and praise. In a nod to Puppet on a Chain, Mass inserts the rather lengthy speed boat chase into the film with spectacular results. Wide shots of the boats racing through the narrow canals cut to stunt sequences worthy of rewinding. The speed boats running a slalom course through tourist filled paddle boats is a real nail biter to witness.
Going in I expected this to be a rather dull Euro horror with some memorable moments keeping the cult status alive. Maas creates a hybrid film with various tropes stirred into the mix which on the surface could spell disaster. However Amsterdamned has a thrilling story, engaging characters, and kinetic action sequences that keeps this cop thriller interesting and worth the cult status it’s gained over the years. But whatever you do -- don’t compare it to JAWS.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Amsterdamned arrives on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack thanks to Blue Underground. The film is pressed onto a Region Free BD50 disc that is housed in a transparent case with reversible artwork and a film booklet. DVD and Blu-ray discs are cradled on the right side with the booklet on the left. Disc loads to the Blue Underground logo before settling on the Main Menu with typical navigation options. When you hear the terrifying Dick Maas synth music you’ve made it!
Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a 1080p HD transfer, Amsterdamned gets a beautiful 2k scan for it’s Blu-ray debut. Some compression artifacts and macroblocking is evident on this transfer during dark indoor scenes, clearly an issue with the disc authoring process as the scan itself looks beautiful. Blue Underground’s issues with authoring wasn’t clearly apparent on my disc during initial viewing. Otherwise, colors are bright and pop with fluorescent lights and costumes carrying the color palette. Film grain is present and contributes nicely to the film’s aesthetic. For a film that has only seen a U.S. release on VHS Amsterdamned looks damned good! Blue Underground has a replacement disc program setup for affected Blu-ray discs. Contact them directly for details.
Blue Underground provides four different audio tracks for this release: Dutch DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dutch DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 2.0, and French DD 2.0. I watched the film with the Dutch 5.1 track which was mixed for this Blu-ray release and found it impressive, though the 2.0 would’ve done the job just as well. Surround atmospherics heighten the experience of the synth scoring and action effects, but at no point did I feel those surround channels were pronounced enough to merit sustained attention. Dialogue is clear and clean throughout the feature with little need to adjust volume levels. English, English SHD, and Spanish subtitles available.
Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Dick Maas and Editor Hans Van Dongen moderated by Severin Films co-founder David Gregory.
The Making of Amsterdamned (HD 36:13) Archival documentary with on set footage and interviews with cast and crew. In Dutch w/ English subtitles.
Tales from the Canal - Interview with Star Huub Stapel (HD 8:37) Produced for this release, actor Huub Stapel talks about his experiences playing Eric Visser and working with Dick Maas while floating on the canals of Amsterdam.
Damned Stuntwork - Interview with Dickey Beer (HD 18:09) Produced for this release by Blue Underground, prolific stunt coordinator and driver Dickey Beer discusses the extensive stunt work on Amsterdamned.
Loïs Lane Music Video - Amsterdamned (Directed by Dick Maas) (HD 3:27) A great 80’s music video with lyrics that will get stuck in your head.
Poster & Stills Gallery
DVD Copy of Film
Film Booklet: An essay from author Michael Gingold titled “Canal Plus Murder: The Story of Amsterdamned”
U.S. Trailer: (HD 1:41)
Dutch Trailer: (HD 3:11)
Combined with the unique setting, dry humor, and spectacular action scenes Amsterdamned isn’t your run-of-the-mill cop thriller. Thankfully it isn't your average slasher either! Blue Underground has produced a collector worthy edition that will certainly please fans. The authoring misfire is a disappointment but with the easy replacement program you’ll have the best possible presentation of the film. An impressive list of special features and a stunning 2k transfer make this release a must-have for cult collectors. Recommended.