I feel like the word “mockumentary” was not invented for a film like this. Mockumentary, with the word mock front row and centre, seems better suited to something like Spinal Tap. A movie like Man Bites Dog, however, should have its own set of rules.
“Man Bites Dog” is journalism shorthand for how unusual events are more likely to be reported in the news. A (fake) documentary team is following and filming a charismatic serial killer named Ben as he commits his increasingly gruesome crimes. Of course the crew gets drawn in and soon find themselves to be accomplices. Ben takes advantage of the rolling cameras to boast about the murders he’s racking up, but loves the sound of his own voice so much delivers stream-of-consciousness monologues on just about any subject.
It doesn’t exactly surprise the audience that he’s a misogynist, a racist, and that he preys on the elderly. We witness his crimes in graphic detail. Yes, it’s horrible to watch the crew help to subdue a young boy who will then be smothered to death. Not for everyone. But this is not a violent for no reason film. Remember the mock part? Well think of it more as satire, or critique – a sad, sad critique of what sells at the movie theatre, or for that matter, on your 6 o’clock news. Why are we attracted as a society to serial killers, why do we find so magnetic, and why do so many seem to glorify them? Serial killers are the new icons. The media isn’t about the story, which is horrifying, but about the personality. We often learn more about the man committing the crimes than about his defenseless victims. If you think back to the last school shooting, for example, you are more likely to know the name of the gunman than the name of the innocent kid that he shot.
This is a highly interesting film out of Belgium, shot on a dime as I understand it, but it has garnered quite a cult following from people who recognize it as intelligently deviant. I found it hard to watch but I liked the questions I found myself asking. Plus, I learned how to successfully sink the corpse of a dead baby, and how to save a bullet by scaring the elderly to death, and that seems like it’ll come in handy, right?