When your title character isn’t really a character, it creates some friction between audience and filmmaker. On top of that, you have a tone that seems to straddle a couple of different genres (horror and black comedy), and the film ends up asking a lot of that audience. I think I’ve figured it out, though.
The title character is not human, he’s a spirit (the IMDb trivia page says that he bears resemblances to a German supernatural creature, an alp). When we first see him he’s living in some underground bunker when three men (including a priest fresh off of saying mass) root him out. He escapes and wakes up two others sleeping in small holes in the ground. All three run off. He then goes from house to house, asking for a bath. Most people, obviously, slam the door on him. He simply walks off to the next house. He does eventually come to a house where the husband beats Borgman for implying an acquaintance with his wife. The wife, out of pity after the husband leaves, then invites the hobo looking vagrant in for a bath, a meal, and a place to sleep.
Borgman than takes over. He entrances the couple’s children with stories of a child in the clouds. One of his fellow sprites seduces the au pair living in the house (but doesn’t actually have sex with her). And Borgman invests the wife’s dreams with visions of violence from her husband, whom she immediately attacks after waking up. There’s something interesting about the seduction as well. Borgman’s effects on the wife induces some kind of lust for him within her, but he’s completely uninterested in sex, just like his fellow sprite. When the wife first comes to him, begging for him to touch her, he nonchalantly says, “I’m watching TV.” There’s a complete disinterest in sex from these sprites.
This is really where the odd tone comes into play. Am I supposed to be laughing at this? Scared of it? I wasn’t scared, so I chose the laughter, and rolled with it. The movie became a black comedy in my eyes, and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the twisted path.
In the end, after wife has killed husband and wife has met her own end, Borgman and his associates collect the children and au pair and disappear into the woods. There’s no lesson to learn. Borgman was malicious, and the only way to make him turn his sights on you is to invite you into his home. He doesn’t go after the people who slam the doors on his face. He doesn’t just set his sights on the husband who beat him, but he tears apart the wife with the same cool focus.
It’s almost like there is a lesson, and that there is evil in the world that can’t be accommodated. Invite the evil in, treat it kindly, and it will still have no objective other than to destroy you. The only thing to do is to prevent evil from coming into your house.
It’s a fascinating movie that requires some unpacking from the audience, but that’s part of the fun. It’s not great (maybe I’ll change my mind on that over time, though), but the effort that the audience puts to take in what the movie has to offer ends up being worthwhile.
Netflix Rating: 4/5
Quality Rating: 3/4