Germany/2010/83 mins/Dir: Alexander Adolph
A good old-fashioned ghost story lies at the heart of Alexander Adolph’s chiller, The Last Employee (Der Letzte Angestellte). Featuring themes of mental ill-health, revenge, unemployment and the unknown, this German horror film brings the ghost story into the 21st century, with startling results.
When David (Christian Berkel) begins his new job of liquidating a failing company after three years of unemployment due to mental ill-health, he meets the unstable, but seemingly harmless former worker Mrs Blochs (Bibiana Beglau). But Mrs Blochs’ own mental health issues soon arise and she begins threatening David and his family, leading David to doubt his work, and perhaps more importantly, his sanity.
Adolph’s modern ghost story is a tense and clever addition to the horror genre that taps into a number of common fears. Stripped of excessive special effects and complicated plot twists, this ghostly tale is both unsettling and mesmerising, as the story of a simple family man returning to work becomes something altogether more frightening, haunting and deadly. Combining issues of mental health, the loss of control following unemployment and bereavement, Adolph’s film preys on our most powerful weapon: the monsters and fears that live in our minds. This is a film for anyone who’s ever taken a job that they don’t want to do, or had to work late in a deserted office, where the many of the daytime sounds of the office take on a more sinister tone after dark. The power of The Last Employee lies in its combination of all that is mundane and familiar, with themes of the unnatural, the supernatural and claustrophobia lead the film to its brutal conclusion. Eerie and unforgettable, this film perfectly recreates the tensions of the cinematic ghost story for a contemporary and cynical audience with ease.