Movie Review: BEGOTTEN (1990)


Begotten (1990)

Written and Directed by Edmund E. Merhige

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Description: an 80min abstract Rorschach version of the Judeo-Christian creation story.

The Good: If you are not a fan of abstract/coffee-house films, then there will probably be nothing in this film that you will like. There is no dialog and in fact, not even color as all of the images are comprised solely of pure black and pure white with no half-tones. The story is cryptic and hard to follow or understand (for most viewers) but if you like the bizarre and abstract then you will probably love this film. To be sure, there are certainly elements of horror here: scenes that are so graphic in nature that they are hard to watch and impossible to forget, but a suspenseful/slasher film it is not. Though there is no dialog, the sound effects are unsettling, creepy, and at times, completely unnerving. Combined with the stark contrast and almost alien imagery, the soundtrack helps to evoke a completely surreal and horrifying world. For all of the truly gruesome and graphic images that abound in the realm of cinema horror, no other film as made this reviewer as uncomfortable, tense, and truly horrified as Elias Merhige’s Begotten. Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible came close for a few minutes during the infamous rape scene, but that is only a fraction of the freaked-out-edness to be experienced in this film.

The Bad: Begotten is surreal and somewhat abstract. The characters are more akin to Jungian archetypes than they are stock character types, which makes this a hard to follow/understand film. However, these elements give the viewer an interpretive freedom and participation level that is rarely, if ever, found in mainstream films. You may not come away with the same story the filmmaker was telling, but the one you glean will be more personal and meaningful.

The Ugly: The imagery is borderline theoretical at times due to the phenomenal amount of processing that went into this film but it is up to each viewer to truly determine the value of this quality. For myself, I have nothing negative to remark on concerning the style, acting, video or audio quality of this film.

Old School: Truly old school fans of horror will probably dig this one, and by truly old school I mean those people who own a copy of The Student of Prague, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or Murnau’s Nosferatu. You know who you are. Also, fans of Eraserhead will most likely enjoy it as well.

New Blood: Younger audiences who enjoy MTV-style editing and seeing Paris Hilton in horror films, will probably hate this one. If you don’t know who Max Schreck is, then I’m talking about you.

To See or Not to See?  Good luck finding this one anywhere. I have never seen it on eBay, and only once at Amazon – for over one hundred dollars (US). I know of one video store in Atlanta that rents it. So however you can watch this film, by all means do so.

Check out the Begotten trailer!

One Reply to “Movie Review: BEGOTTEN (1990)”

  1. Awesome review!!! I was able to watch it (for the first time since the mid-90s) on YouTube. That was earlier this year after I read a review on the most “mind dementing movies” not my favorite way to watch movies but since I couldn’t find it anywhere else……

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