EUTHANIZER **** Finland 2017 Dir: Teemu Nikki. 85 mins
Matti Onnismaa quietly crafts a truly memorable character in Finnish writer-director Teemu Nikki’s grimly funny character study of what Paul Schrader might call “God’s Lonely Man”. Onnismaa is a pipe-smoking loner, mocked by some as a “dog whisperer”, who euthanizes sick animals at considerably cheaper rates than those offered by the professional vets he despises.
If the customer cares for their pet, they get a particularly good deal – if not, they’re likely to be forced to sit in a dog cage. Onnismaa believes people should pay for pain they have caused, and his oddly touching relationship with a young guinea pig owner with a fondness for auto erotic asphyxiation is balanced with the growing threat of a white supremacist operating under the “Soldiers of Finland”. Nikki avoids the pervasive gloom and shock tactics seemingly promised by the central set-up and finds a good deal of playful gallows humour within the story of two outcasts caught up in modern society’s many hypocrisies. The bleakness of Onnismaa’s visits to his dying, morphine-reliant (and abusive former alcoholic) father is offset by the amusingly dubious claims of local Lothario “Vatanen of a thousand vaginas”. The film is damning about a world in which rabid consumerism and the need to buy a new car every six months is prioritised over the life of an animal, and it tracks its way to a discreetly savage final act instigated by a horribly inevitable scene of extreme cruelty. Even then, the unlikely appeal of Onnismaa’s protagonist and the surprising presence of impromptu karaoke provide welcome flickers of humanity and humour in the encroaching darkness.
Review by Steven West