By: Trevor Chartrand
Helmed by Finnish filmmaker Teemu Nikki, Euthanizer is one moody, atmospheric and, frankly, zany thriller. Between overlapping tones and strategic musical cues, this movie blends genres in a way that just shouldn’t work, but somehow does – it’s like combining the sweetest strawberries with jalapenos and raw sewage. Euthanizer somehow creates a sweet, yet spicy, story that will leave a bad taste in your mouth (in a good way).
As a man who sees himself as some sort of animal whisperer, Veijo Haukka (Matti Onnismaa) runs a twisted veterinarian service out of his garage: specializing in euthanizing pets. Veijo puts animals down at an affordable, but menacing cost. He sees himself as the voice of neglected and tortured animals, enacting vengeance on behalf of these pets. Euthanizer is a vigilante justice story, where critter-killers get their karmic come-uppance, once and for all.
While the well-being of animals is the core focus of the film, we still have time to explore every other topic under the sun as well. From gang violence to romance, family drama to auto-erotic asphyxiation, this movie has it all. Somehow these concepts are all explored without deviating too far from the narrative themes of justice, revenge, and animal rights. It’s brilliant – and insane – that this train doesn’t ever fly off the tracks.
The needle weaving all these different fabrics together is Euthanizer’s intense soundtrack. Loud, in-your-face electronica will effectively keep viewers on-edge, even during the movie’s tamer scenes. It may just be mood music, but it works all the same. This film’s unpredictability will grab the audience’s attention, but the tense musical choices will keep all eyes glued to the screen.
The other driving force behind the film is the titular Euthanizer – actor Matti Onnismaa turns in a truly intense performance. Veijo is a dark and troubled character, with a bizarre code of ethics he strictly enforces, even on himself. But the character is constantly shifting; he’s a haunting, violent presence one moment, becoming resonant, vulnerable and sympathetic the next. Misguided as his actions may be, the cruel lessons Veijo forces upon his customers always seem fair or justified. One can’t help but notice the actor’s striking resemblance to the late Alan Rickman – not just in appearance, but with the poignant screen presence they undoubtedly share. Onnismaa carries the film with absolute menace and melancholy.
For full disclosure, this may be a challenging watch for some viewers, especially with the depiction of animal cruelty. Uncomfortable as it may sound, there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing the animals get their revenge, even if it’s only through Veijo’s actions. The film leaves viewers with plenty to think about, from the boundaries of morality to the meaning of justice. Despite being tonally unstable, Euthanizer is an unsettling and relentless thriller that’s sure to rattle some cages.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor