Megalomaniac Review | A Brutally Beautiful Story of Murder and Trauma


Warning: This article discusses a film that deals with heavy topics, including torture and rape.Megalomaniac, the newest release from Belgian filmmaker Karim Ouelhaj, follows Martha and Félix, the two adult children of the Butcher of Mons, a notorious Belgian serial killer who was responsible for the murders of five women throughout the 1990s. As adults, Félix has turned to killing, following in his father’s footsteps, and Martha has become reserved, mentally ill from years of abuse from those around her.

The film was also written by Ouelhaj, and it stars Eline Schumacher as Martha, and Benjamin Ramon as Félix; and they are joined by Wim Willaert, Pierre Nisse, and Hélène Moor.

Megalomaniac has already won several awards, including Best Film and Outstanding Performance (Schumacher) at the 2022 Fantasia Film Festival, and Best Performance (Schumacher) at the Brooklyn Horror Festival, among others. The film released in limited theaters on September 8th, 2023, and will be available on digital platforms beginning September 26th. It’s very rewarding if you can actually stomach it.

A Heavy Dose of Graphic Trauma

Megalomaniac 2022
Dark Star Pictures

Megalomaniac not only focuses on the obvious hereditary and taught aspects from serial killer to son, but also the cyclical trauma that takes place for Martha, being raised and surrounded by men who routinely abduct, sexually assault, and murder women. It’s clear that by adulthood, Martha already has a severe mental illness, and after being violently assaulted at work by her co-worker and becoming pregnant, she stays with her brother as he continues his serial killing, and even encourages his behavior.

For Martha’s entire life, she’s been beaten down, berated, and abused by men. After her assault, she’s truly broken, and as she sees she has a little power over her brother’s victims, she uses this power in the only way she knows how, by doing the same to them. The metaphorical and traumatic tones in movies don’t get much heavier than this.

As a sort of trigger warning, the film has some incredibly brutal and intense scenes that include sexual assault, incestuous relationships, torture, and murder. This movie isn’t for the faint of heart, and its brutality can be compared to (but not as extensive) similar graphic films, such as Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer or I Spit on Your Grave. The film can be incredibly realistic and unsettling at parts, to say the least.

Related: 23 Best Serial Killer Movies Based on or Inspired by True Stories

Gorgeous Cinematography, Set Design, and Lighting

Megalomaniac 2022
Dark Star Pictures

The dark cinematography, set design, and lighting for Megalomaniac are top-notch. Cinematographer François Schmitt did a phenomenal job of not only building a brooding atmosphere for both the main characters, but the house they live in feels characteristic of both their personalities. It’s dark and drab, cold and empty, and slowly rotting from the inside out.

The camerawork is completely devoid of warmth, which was perfectly fitting for the movie’s style. Mostly dark colors like blacks, light grays, and dark reds were used to highlight blood splatter and gore, as Félix mutilated his victim(s) throughout his home.

Scenes that acted as metaphors were filmed brilliantly, physically showing Martha’s inevitable descent into madness as a viscous muck she was being dragged into, and manifesting their victims’ fears as a watchful demon in the house. The film does a great job in its presentation of these moments, too, as to not confuse the viewer into thinking something supernatural is afoot. It’s very clear what scenes and moments are from whose perspective.

Related: The Very Best Cinematography in Black and White Horror Movies

An Ending That Sticks with You

Megalomaniac 2022
Dark Star Pictures

The final act of the film ends on a cruel note, simultaneously troubling and satisfying, as specific characters receive their much-needed comeuppance, but also the continuation of the ingrained mental illness and trauma is passed down to another generation.

Eline Schumacher and Benjamin Ramon are absolutely fantastic in this film, and it’s no surprise that the former has already garnered a couple awards for her performance. The two play off one another perfectly; each being affected by the same situation, but their results and reactions are completely different. It’s a heartbreaking glimpse into how the same extremely traumatic event can affect people in completely different ways.

Megalomaniac may very well be one of the best serial killer films of the last decade, and if you have the stomach and mental capacity to take the intense gore and graphic physical and sexual violence, you’re in for a beautiful, savage, and incredibly metaphorical movie.

From Dark Star Pictures, Megalomaniac is in select theaters now, and will be available on digital and on demand platforms beginning September 26th.

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