German Netflix original The Privilege (Das Privileg) is another example of a horror-type film that could not make up its mind on what it wants to be. Even though the film seems to have an interesting concept with many obvious influences in its style, The Privilege feels like a confusing mix of sci-fi and supernatural with some mystery and even sexy teen romantic genre thrown into the mix.
As the title suggests, the film follows the life of a teenager named Finn (Max Schimmelpfennig) who comes from a wealthy family and attends a prestigious private high school. Although his life seems ideal, he is increasingly plagued by nightmares and demonic visions years after witnessing his sister Anna's tragic death. What his family dismisses as psychotic breakdowns due to a childhood trauma feels ever more real to him. As the horrific events around him begin to escalate, Finn can no longer pretend that it's all just in his head. So together with his best friend Lena (Lea van Acken) and his high school crush Samira (Tijan Marei), Finn tries to uncover the sinister secret that lies in his past and behind the seemingly inconspicuous facade of his own family.
Streaming platforms like Netflix have surely given us opportunities to be exposed to so many interesting foreign films in the past few years. Especially all the great horror content from Germany like Prey (2021), Blood Red Sky (2021), or series like Dark. However, The Privilege is one of those movies where I'm not really sure where my opinion lies. It was presented well on a technical and production level, and was suspenseful enough to keep me watching and questioning to the end. But on the other hand, the confusing yet predictable story and horror cliches kept me from being fully invested in it.
The crux of The Privilege rests on Finn and his two friends who are trying to figure out why Finn sees weird stuff. Although the movie opens with a shocking scene and the first portion is creepy and chilling enough, after a while, the story's progression doesn't make sense. That's probably because the movie is being too ambitious, experimenting with so many references while lacking a true identity of its own. While watching, I was constantly confused by the twists and turns. Is this a case of the supernatural? Is this science fiction? Is this about a cult? Is this a psychological thriller? While the film reveals a twist in the end, leading up to that the filmmakers are constantly stretching the detours with so many unnecessary scenes, and biting off more than they can chew. And the disappointing twist itself was almost like a big rip-off of Jordan Peele's Get Out (2017).
Schimmelpfennig, whom we have seen in the series Dark, is probably the best actor out of the bunch here. Even though Finn is a bit bland, he makes up for it with his tragic backstory and the persistent struggles with paranoia. Unfortunately, the supporting characters are dull by comparison. Like Lena's character, or especially Finn's crush Samira who has nothing noteworthy about her character other than making a sexy face throughout the movie and who sort of just tags along with him to do whatever without asking questions. And the random LGBTI threesome scene between the main characters after a shocking experience seems to be forced into the main story, making it even more weird and frankly, quite laughable. The movie comes packed with a fair share of jumpscares, something I'm not a fan of. In this case, it just cheapens the tension at the moment.
Overall, The Privilege is nothing more than an average horror movie that is entertaining in parts but suffers due to its puzzling fusion of themes, cliched horror and not enough meat in its content to fully flesh out a full concept.
- The Privilege
- Starring Max Schimmelpfennig, Lea van Acken, Tijan Marei
- Directed by Felix Fuchssteiner and Katharina Schöde
- Now streaming on Netflix