Holz Fist is an experimental 1998 German American Psychological Supernatural Horror film written and directed by Christopher Landon starring Ethan Embry, Sarah Paulson, Karoline Herfuth, Jürgen Prochnow, Christoph Gusenbauer, Aldis Hodge and James Purefoy.
The film is inspired centrally by Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The film combines extreme psychedelic to inspire visually assaulting psychological horror and while presents a narrative that features supernatural sequences never downright in it's minimal dialogue claims that hell, the devil, demons and other mythology are real.
The film also draws elements from Dante Alghieri's Divine Comedy first volume: Inferno.
The film was shot primarily in Luxembourg, Germany and North Carolina featuring the only human setting of the North Carolina wilderness.
The film was released to the Cannes and Sundance film festivals before securing a limited theatrical and arthouse cinema release on December 10th, 1998.
The film was met with initial poor reception then later audience and critical acclaim, hailing it as one of the most convoluted yet deeply layered, frightening and psychologically assaulting horror films of all time, without the need of excessive violence, blood, gore or disturbing content.
The film served as Christopher Landon's feature film debut.
Lumberjack Kane lives in the isolated North Carolina woods with his dog Mephisto after the tragic suicide of his wife Rose. After receiving an eviction notice from realtor Cu Busin he begins to pack his things and prepare his truck to depart. He burns his late wife's possessions but burns his hand in the cottage fireplace saving a pendant image of the two of them.
Opening credits appear as he prepares his things and heads outside to his truck, which won't start prompting to venture out on foot to a nearby filling station to proccur gasoline. The opening title appears as he heads into the wood.
Fire In The Woods
Kane meets two boys Johnny and Bobby who offer to guide him out of the woods toward town and why they are this far in the woods away from town say they are in trouble for something they did a long time ago. After crossing a randomly appearing railroad track that Kane observes shouldn't be there he loses the boys.
Fog overcomes his surroundings and suddenly the woods are plunged into night as it clears, revealing a bonfire of a strange branch created effigy and Johnny and Bobby dancing around with several other boys fanning the flames. They dance to the Henry Hall song Teddy Bears Picnic and suddenly morph into demonic dwarves. When interrupted they attack Kane telling them to join them in their place as they ascend with various weapons, Johnny and Bobby with steel bars.
A woman appears and wards them off extinguishing their crazily burning bonfire prompting the appearence of various demonic entities including Harpies and a Minotaur which seize the dwarven monsters, throw into large materialising cages and hoist them up from the trees.
Kane passes out and comes to in a den tended to by the woman who reveals herself as sharing the same name as his late wife. She informs him that he is between life and death, but can atone and leave this place, she however cannot remember why she is here and instead flees and holds back the various evils in the woods. She proclaims there are nine areas of the wood and that one surely holds the chance of atonement for them both to leave. Kane initially rebuffs her claims but cannot attest to what he was attacked by earlier.
The Passing Storm
Kane and Rose come into a second area where a loud sound renders the two deafened as Rose forewarned, here Italian lovers Francesca and Paolo a slave boy initiate an orgy among a dance that ends in cannibalism, during which Kane finds himself for a moment sneaking into his college dorm where he participated in group sex with his then girlfriend Alice and friends and couple Henry and Tara while on heavy hallucinogenic drugs.
Kane comes to as a violent storm has surface and sucks away the remaining Francesca, Paolo and orgy members leaving Kane and Rose to almost drown in a river of blood.
Rose again saves Kane bringing him to a high rise. Rose pulls out a journal and crosses off a two signalling they have only seven areas from this point. Kane relays the suppressed memory of his own orgy whilst on heavy narcotics, Rose consoles him that admittance is the first step to forgiveness and leaving here.
Trial Of Trauma
Kane and Rose come to a woodland hollow which becomes an apartment of an obese man named Charlie who tries to assault Kane after welcoming the two to a feast which is drugged food. Kane and Rose escape nearly being attacked by three mud covered dogs that ascend the stairs and instead maul Charlie. Kane relays Charlie as a man who had invited him when he was ten to dinner after he briefly ran away for four days, he had drugged him and had awoken unsure of what happened to him, but ran out and was nearly mauled by a neighbour's dog. Rose claims a friend that she knew had a similar thing happen and that she is sorry. Kane tells her that sounds familiar.
The two progress past the woods into a flatland hill area where several men are forced to push large stone tombstones to the top. Here Kane is approached by realtor Cu Busin who confesses to a life built on the ruin of others. He attacks the two and the scene becomes a cemetary where the two are almost buried alive to take his place.
Kane is hit with the memory of dismissing his bisexuality and relationship with the young iconography student he loved Ivan out of his prideful position and popularity at college. He rises and sees an apparition of his father before overcoming and burying Cu in his grave. Kane then pulls Rose from her grave and the two find themselves at the top of the hill of an empty field and all tombstones atop the hill with filled graves.
Sins Of The Father
Rose brings Kane to a resting checkpoint she had set up earlier announcing she had only made it as far as the field with the men and graves but always was held back by the reoccuring storms and still not find the area to which she can repent for what she had done.
Kane tells of his Rose a woman he met out of university whilst travelling Nepal and that they began a relationship, still out of his pressure to suppress his attraction to men and in the spur of being abroad forget Ivan.
Rose enquires as to whether the shame he has for being himself comes from his parents. He tells her his mother was an angel before trying to turn over to sleep. Nightmares of memories involving his discovery of his Rose after she overdosed in their ensuite bathroom appear and himself appearing before himself and hitting them.
When he awakens Kane discovers among Rose's bag who has stepped outside keeping watch is newspaper clippings and photographs of his Rose.
An argument breaks out and Kane steps out into the wood and finds a house. Inside he comes across his father, mother, himself as a child and is struck by his father for disturbing his upstairs sick brother. As his mother tries to stop him she too is struck and the adult Kane tries to attack his father.
The house suddenly catches fire and Kane rushes upstairs to his brother's bedroom door, upon opening it he enters out into a woodland battlefield with corpses everywhere. He sees the bodies as native americans, then civillians those passing along to the side of him attacking are seen as colonists, SS soldiers and even his father as a boy being struck by his father, an SS general.
Kane steps through a vortex.
Kane finds himself in a town where he meets a woman named Marzanna who is being forced into a coffin about to be set alight by shadowy figures. They scatter as Kane approaches and pulls her out. Kane recognises the setting as Italy and where he first met Rose and sees a crucified version of Ivan which horrifies him. Marzanna and him leave as Kane tells her how he coldly rebuffed his former love Ivan on the time he proposed they run away together and take up a cottage in North Carolina.
Crime And Punishment
Kane and Marzanna then come upon a trial overseen by a robed figure in which a man who appears to be Ivan named Alexander is sentenced to life in prison. Kane runs after Alexander as he is dragged away with Marzanna falling behind. He comes into a prison system he recognises as the one he served a two year sentence in. There he saves Alex from a rape situation to which he was the victim of seeing his body behind, a riot breaks out and Alex dies as his face changes revealing him to be a different man from Ivan.
Rose appears and pulls Kane out back in the woods.
Rose confesses to absolve herself as she is in fact is Rose and her suicide and lies she told of him to ruin him prior to her death condemned her here. They find themselves in a sunlit park where Kane proposed to her. They are divided as Kane is attacked by Rose's various family members and friends in the park she shouts the truth that she lied and they suddenly break a storm washes through to take her, but Kane tells her forgives her and the two step out onto the edge of the woods.
Edge Of The World
At the edge of the woods Marzanna appears again and tries to kill Rose, fatally stabbing her. Kane overpowers and almost in a fit of rage kills her. As he prepares to bring Rose across a frozen lake that ends at nothing but with the town appearing in the horizon she tells him she forgives him. The robed figure appears and the two cannot cross as Marzanna begins to surrounded by the children of earlier dance in sped up ballet.
Kane tells Rose as he sees himself again stopped in the motion of striking him, that he killed his brother in a moment of rage prior to him and Rose being together, after a fight broke out of him picking up from a police station after his drug induced group sex. He struck him with a rock for a moment seeing his father before him.
The robed figure drops it's hood and falls as the ice lake with bodies beneath it collapses and sunlight comes over that turns to ambulance lights.
Kane is being wheeled into an ambulance away from the woods near his cottage by paramedics having sustained a gunshot wound to his head, the paramedics discussing how they have a chance to actually save him. Two officers start discussing as the ambulance drives away that Kane had attempted suicide as the next day was eviction and his wife Rose had killed herself with anti-depressants in their cottage bathroom. They discuss reasoning also including his closeted sexuality, previous arrest for the murder of his twin brother Abel and that he even killed his dog prior to shooting himself.
The deputy turns to the sheriff and ends the film with the line of his realtor having also coincidentally killed himself a week prior via hanging.
- Ethan Embry as Kane
- Sarah Paulson as Rose
- Karoline Herfuth as Marzanna
- Jürgen Prochnow as Cu Busin
- Aldis Hodge as Alexander/Ivan
- Javier Botet as The Robe
- George Wendt as Charlie
- Christoph Gusenbauer as Johnny
- Philip Wiegratz as Bobby
- Monica Bellucci as Francesca
- Raoul Bova as Paolo
- Alain Delon as Kane's Grandfather
- James Purefoy as Kane's Father
- Pamela Adlon as Kane's Mother
- Conrad Fenris as Rose's Father
- Kristine Sutherland as Rose's Mother
- Karina Smirnoff as Alice
- Clayne Crawford as Henry
- Laura Niles as Tara
- Eugenio Derbez as Sheriff
- James Le Gros as Deputy
- Kristy McNichol as Paramedic 1
- Eamonn Walker as Paramedic 2
- Faust- Wagner
- Danse Macabre- Camille Saint-Saens
- Devil's Trill Sonata- Giuseppe Tartini
- Tristan and Isolde- Wagner
- Smetana- Moldau
- The Teddy Bears Picnic- Henry Hall & His Orchestra
- Ode to Death- Gustav Holst