Ex Drummer is a film that will sneak up behind you and shove a chloroform-soaked rag in font of your nose. After you’ve hit the ground, it’ll steal your wallet, stick a sharpie up your butt and then kick you in the teeth before running away. The movie is loud, chaotic, a bit unwieldy but, overall, a really smart, entertaining movie — but I might just be saying that because I’m afraid of the mad rock and rollers who dreamt up a film as perversely twisted as Ex Drummer.
A 2007 import from Belgium just recently released on DVD, Ex Drummer stars Dries Vanhegen as Dries, a fictionalized stand-in for Herman Brusselmans, the author of the book Ex Drummer is adapted from.
Dries, a famous writer, has his posh life style interrupted by the appearance of three handicapped musicians looking for a fourth to join their band. The three misfits approach Dries hoping that a man as famous as he is joining their band will help to get the word out about their planned sole performance.
Intrigued by the messy lives of the three musicians, Dries decides to join in on their performance — even declaring his own handicap: the fact that he can’t play the drums.
Playing alongside Dries in the band is a group of social rejects each afflicted with their own handicaps — both physical and emotional. Koen de Geyter (Norman Baert), the singer, is a violent misogynist with a lisp who enjoys such varied acts such as pounding the ever-loving snot out of women who set off his trigger-hair temper and literally crawling on the walls.
Jan Verbeek (Gunter Lamoot) is a stiff-armed gay bassist who is obsessed with his mother — alternating between adoring her and berating her with vicious verbal jabs. His arm was left stiff as a bored and his mother bald as Lex Luthor after she walked in on him while he was masturbating.
Finally, Ivan Van Dorpe (Sam Louwyck) is a deaf guitarist who is obsessed with music and so focused on his craft to the point where he ignores everything else — including the young child who crawls around in Van Dorpe’s drug-filled hovel of an apartment.
Dries thrives in pushing the buttons of his fellow musicians — manipulating them into emotional conflicts with each other in the hopes this will inspire his latest book. In a band with a violent woman-beater, a negligent father and an emotionally abusive son, it says something that Dries is the most despicable character in the film.
Well, second most.
The band, named The Feminists because (in Dries’ words) four handicapped musicians are just as worthless as a group of feminists, prepare to go up against the band Harry Mulisch in an upcoming battle of the bands. Leading the rival group is Dikke Lul. For those of you who don’t speak Dutch, the language the movie was filmed in, that name translates to Fat Cock — which the bandleader certainly has. Dikke Lul uses his titular tool to rape The Feminists’ roadies — ripping them apart to the point where they can hardly sit … let alone barely survive the sexual encounter.
If you haven’t gotten the idea yet, Ex Drummer is an in-your-face abrasively dark comedy. The movie seems to be designed purely to push buttons and send lesser men into the corner, shaking and holding themselves while they cry.
Under the guidance of director Koen Mortier, the film thrives in a vibrant visual palate that looks like an extended version of Jonathan Glazer’s music video for Radiohead’s “Karma Police” — with dark, rich colors cut through with the occasional stark, violent light. A rocking soundtrack and a kinetic editing style only help to sell the film’s easy comparisons to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.
The film is presented in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The gritty look of the film is a little soft around the edges but remains a more than acceptable visual presentation. The soundtrack is available in Dolby Stereo 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The 5.1 audio track makes full use of all the various channels — pumping the explosive soundtrack throughout your room and sucking you into the concert experience.
The Making of Ex Drummer — A half-hour look bringing the book to the screen The feature also includes some audition footage.
Music Videos — Three music videos are included. Two are just extended, uncut versions of performances from the climatic concert scene featuring The Feminists and Overdue Hykers, another band that performances. The third is your standard promotional video, this time from Flip Kowlier, with scenes of the film intercut.
Trailers — Two trailers from the film are included, one uncut.
Ex Drummer is not necessarily a good film — the film’s dark nature is a bit to obtrusive while the story simultaneously being overly elusive and detached. As an experience, though, Ex Drummer remains a top-notch visceral encounter. It may leave you a little confused, a little hazy and a little afraid of Belgiums, but Ex Drummer won’t leave you unsatisfied.