(Robert Sigl, West Germany/Hungary, 1989)

BY LAURA KERN | March 17, 2022

Like the best fairy tales, which often portray darkness through the lens of childhood innocence, Laurín tells a dreamily surreal story of hardened youth. The title character is a young girl whose mental state is not initially clear; she sleeps in a crib and is treated like a baby, though she’s probably nearing 10. She’s played by Dóra Szinetár, whom the camera adores. Laurín’s father, addicted to the seafaring life, leaves his daughter, wife, and mother home alone in the middle of nowhere for many months at a time. During one of his absences, his wife is killed. Audiences see that she wasn’t the intended target of murder; she just happened to unluckily stumble across the local child-killer with his latest victim, and thus had to be disposed of.

Oddly, there’s no real sense of urgency to uncover what happened to her—presumably the townspeople regard her death as accidental. But Laurín, left only with her sickly, opium-smoking, cat-hating granny, becomes haunted by terrifying visions of kids, most likely casualties of the child-murderer, and makes the connection to her mother’s demise. The film ultimately becomes a revenge thriller of sorts, with Laurín banding together with a local boy to solve the crimes. There are no surprises when it comes to the identity of killer, but it doesn’t really matter. The mood is what’s important here.

Set around the turn of the 20th century, Laurín brims with strikingly beautiful period detail, lushly captured by DP Nyika Jancsó, and ominous sounds like squawking crows and squeaking swings. Oh, and of course there’s also a perfectly cinematic creepy priest on hand. Though the film takes place in Bavaria and was filmed in the German language, it was shot in Hungary with mostly Hungarian actors. Laurín is significant for being a rare horror movie to come from Germany at the time (the closest approximations were perhaps the dark visions of Herzog). Robert Sigl, who was only in his mid-20s at the time of making the film, earned some recognition for his highly assured visual style, working under a very tight budget, and while he went on to make some shorts and television projects (his most successful, 1999’s School’s Out, did receive a home-video release in the U.S.), he has yet to make another feature film. A distancing yet hypnotic curiosity piece, Sigl’s Gothic tale is tinged with the giallo schemes of Argento and Bava, and with childhood fantasy reminiscent of Bernard Rose’s Paperhouse from one year earlier and those films Guillermo del Toro had yet to make. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see Laurín

Never available on home video in any format in the U.S., the film is on YouTube in an English-language version with Portuguese subtitles only.
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