If you ever ended up seeing a copy of this movie without the soundtrack running then two things would happen. First of all, you’d miss out on some of the atmosphere and scares. Secondly, you’d suspect that a director from Japan had been transported to some other city to make a J-horror in a new location. Because that’s how The Last Employee plays out, albeit with a finer line in additional psychological suibtlety, yet it’s a German film.
Writer-director Alexander Adolph crafts a fine horror story anchored in the world of office cubicles and strobe lighting. We follow David (Christian Berkel), an unemployed lawyer who takes a new job that requires him to make every employee of a liquidated company redundant. It’s not a task that David relishes and it takes a turn for the worse when one employee (Bibiana Beglau) looks like she has taken it harder than most and blames David directly for her plight. Harassing him by phone and in person, David fears for the safety of his wife (Jule Ronstedt) and young son (Leo Conzen). Perhaps he would have been better off not accepting the job or, more worryingly, perhaps this is a return to the mental state that saw him lose a previous job due to an extended period of poor mental health.
I enjoyed The Last Employee when I saw it and as soon as I started considering what to put in the review and what my final rating would be I realised that my opinion of the movie was creeping up and up.
It mixes obvious scares with more unsettling, subtle moments and manages that great trick of using modern technology to add spookiness (whether it’s a case of mistaken identity on a CCTV tape being played back or just those flickering strobe lights when David is alone in the empty office environment).
The acting is superb. Berkel is believable and sympathetic in the lead role, he realises how strange things seem and worries equally about his own state of mind as he does about any perceived danger. Beglau is a walking “boo” waiting for every opportunity and does great. Ronstedt and Conzen are also very believable and the moments showing the family together never strike a false note. The movie rarely moves away from these characters but there’s also an interfering mother-in-law who gets a couple of memorable moments and the man who employed David, a character not onscreen for all that long but who will certainly make an impression with one particular moment.
The script and direction from Adolph are both well-judged in terms of the pacing, style and content and there’s really very little to pick apart once the movie hits its stride. One or two effects moments from Olaf Ittenbach and Daniela Tokarski will definitely please those wanting to see a bit of nastiness amidst the disturbing psychological trickery, meaning that this really has something to offer every mature horror fan (by mature I am, of course, not referring to physical age). An excellent film.
DIRECTOR: ALEXANDER ADOLPH
STARS: CHRISTIAN BERKEL, BIBIANA BEGLAU, LEO CONZEN, JULE RONSTEDT
RUNTIME: 83 MINS APPROX