Despite Its Title, The Privilege (2022) Is Hindered By Lofty Ambitions
Title: The Privilege
First Non-Festival Release: February 9, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Felix Fuchssteiner, Katharina Schöde
Writer: Felix Fuchssteiner, Sebastian Niemann, Katharina Schöde
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Starring: Max Schimmelpfennig, Lea van Acken, Tijan Marei
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Finn (Max Schimmelpfennig) is days away from his 18th birthday when he witnesses something strange happen to his twin sister (Milena Tscharntke) in an apparent sleepwalking episode. Awakening the next morning to his concerned parents (Lise Risom Olsen, Roman Knizka) assuring him that everything is alright, Finn begins to reflect on a traumatic event from when he was younger involving his late sister. As his suspicions raise, Finn finds more to worry about as his friends start dying in brutal and mysterious ways. Finn must work with his best friend Lena (Lea van Acken) and his crush Samira (Tijan Marei) if he wants to live to see adulthood.
A befuddling supernatural teen horror film that goes in a million directions, The Privilege will raise your eyebrows more than your pulse.
The Privilege might be the goofiest attempt at straight horror in recent history. If that is the feeling the filmmakers want to get across then they certainly accomplished their goal! Otherwise, it feels clunky and disjointed when assembled. Revelatory plot points are brought up yet never fully resolved. Lena discovers several important things at the pharmaceutical company and yet never gets a chance to tell anyone, thanks to her trying to call her friends once on her relic of a flip phone. Several characters are featured in one or two semi-impactful scenes only to never tie into the remainder of the narrative despite their involvement in the plot.
For a silly teen horror flick, the cast does a solid job portraying the youth detectives and the “off” adults in their lives. There isn’t anyone who stands out amongst them though. Outside of Finn, and debatably his sister, no other character has a much development in this film. Everyone is a static cardboard cutout that exists solely to further his arc along. Characters who seem important come and go with either little or no explanation. The Privilege loves a good exposition drop to explain the outlandishness of its plot. Once or twice would be acceptable but this repeats so often that it becomes mind numbing to watch. This means its characters are forced to monologue far too often to be either plausible or enjoyable.
While The Privilege should be lauded for the sheer audacity to tackle so many topics and string them together in a unique way, the script gets overloaded with half-baked ideas and unrealized characters. Its strength lies in the mystery behind the events happening to Finn and his friends but as the story unravels it gets sillier and sillier. At times, it feels like The Privilege is reaching to find the most bizarre answer to the mystery. In doing so, it connects demons, secret societies, mycology, and aliens while expounding on themes of generational trauma, elitism, coming-of-age, and abuse. Unfortunately, its breadth doesn’t allow for the filmmakers to truly delve deeply into the material in a gratifying manner.
Despite this, The Privilege manages to do some things right. It is chock full of beautiful and engaging camerawork that shows off the darkly picturesque German landscapes after hours. Most of the effects work in the film is fine, but there are several moments across multiple modalities including a stalking supernatural presence and some body horror scenes that look incredibly mediocre compared to the production values of the rest of the film. It’s scattershot but the eyesore moments are few and far in between. Overall, it is fun enough ride to go on, if only to see where the ridiculousness takes the viewer.
I truly wanted to love The Privilege and I’m bummed that it does not click. Its unique setup and inviting cinematography are not enough to distract from its obvious flaws. A complicated and eyebrow raising plot mixed in with poor character development and spotty special effects make it hard to stay invested to the end. Fans of wackier teen horror and projects that throw everything but the kitchen sink at the viewers may find something to love here. Others looking for a more traditional, or coherent, narrative will balk at what The Privilege has to offer. Whether or not you feel it is a privilege to watch, it’s always a quick search away on Netflix should you ever desire to watch this German oddity.
Overall Score? 5/10