The Executioners is a septic turd of a movie, devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Conceptually, it is indistinct from every other home invasion film in existence, save for the fact that it has a leering obsession with sexual violence and a gang rape scene that seems to go on indefinitely. So if that pitch gets your motor running, then you’ll likely have a whale of a time. Otherwise, it’s probably best that you stay away and go watch literally anything else.
Alternating between two settings; ”Crushingly Dull” and ”Relentlessly Unpleasant”, The Executioners manages to be pull of the unenviable trick of being consistently off-putting. When it’s not boring, it’s sordid. When it’s not generic, it’s just stupid. And when it is is not tiresome and uneventful, that’s only because it is showing us a woman being forced into fellatio.
Not only that, but director Giorgio Serafini has precisely zero new ideas. Even his last minute plot ”inversion” is a predictable staple of the genre. Without giving too much away, a variation of this reveal is used in almost every home invasion flick (see the infinitely superior You’re Next or Better Watch Out for further reference), so somehow the twists and turns here are also by-the-numbers!
Worse still, there is a pervasive attitude of seediness that clings to the film throughout, specifically in relation to the (exclusively-female) victims. The camera is constantly ogling them, even when they are in a states of severe emotional distress/ physical peril, and they take their clothes off at seemingly random intervals, as if they’re trying to meet a quota or something.
Honestly, it’s telling that this gawking continues after the aforementioned assault, because the sleaziness of this film truly knows no bounds. How anyone could derive titillation from the sight of naked flesh AFTER already giving us a rape scene is truly beyond me, but apparently Serafini thought he’d give it the old college try.
Speaking of that churlish, needless rape sequence, boy is it a doozy! Overlong, uncomfortable and shamelessly exploitative, its only purpose in the film is to aggravate and disturb, which is pretty shitty when you think about it. It has no narrative justification for existing, other than to be used as a base shock-tactic. The heroines could have just as easily been under threat by armed killers or burglars and it wouldn’t have made an iota of difference. The only reason the filmmakers opted to go with rape is because that’s more ”extreme” and attention-grabbing.
Did I mention that the whole ordeal is presented as a montage too? Just to make it more untenable and crass.
Anyone who knows me personally will testify that I am not easily offended or upset and that I have seen FAR worse things than The Executioners before. So it’s not that I’m overly fragile or sensitive, nor do I automatically have a problem with rape appearing in films.
I just think it should have a reason for being there. Which is what I found so objectionable about this film. It went nowhere with its nastiness, there was nothing else to it besides endless misery. It was like having someone poking at you with a stick, repeatedly asking ”Are you shocked yet? Are you shocked yet?”
Also aren’t these rape-revenge narratives supposed to focus on the eventual retribution and payback? You know, the part of the story that’s actually cathartic and exciting for the audience? Take I Spit on Your Grave for example. That film dedicates significantly more time to showing the villains getting their, arguably even more brutal, comeuppance. By contrast, The Executioners kind of just shies away from all that stuff and is curiously hesitant to show us the perpetrators getting what they deserve. Why unflinchingly depict the suffering of the women like that, but then go so easy on the bad guys? It doesn’t make any sense!
There’s truly nothing positive that I can say about this film. The closest I can get to a compliment is that it successfully elicited a visceral reaction from me, but even then, that response was one of vitriol twinned with boredom.
Whilst it is indeed true that talented filmmakers like David Fincher and Martin Scorsese have made a name for themselves by producing provocative and twisted work, there was crucially always some substance to back up their edge. It takes real skill to do what they do, to keep people watching in-spite of the grime. Alas, Giorgio Serafini does not have that skill, so he comes across less like a dangerous maverick and more like a desperate try-hard with nothing to say.