Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) was once the most famous face in Serbian pornography. He was famed for his ability to achieve an erection on demand, and for having the stamina to fuck women red-raw sore with it.

But that was all in a former life. As the film begins, Milos is living a frugal life with wife Maria (Jelena Gavrilovic) and son Petar. They have little money but are happy, and the man who once treated women like dogshit now seems to be relishing in the roles of doting husband and father.

But a call from former onscreen fuck-buddy Laylah (Katarina Zutic) changes all that. She meets with Milos and passes on exciting news about Vukmir, an acquaintance who is planning on making an artistic porno film. The idea is to base it in Serbia but sell it internationally. And he will pay handsomely to have Milos as its star.

Initially sceptical, Milos discusses the matter with Maria and - after a night of (consensual) rough sex with the missus, confirming the old instincts are still in there somewhere - he meets with the shady Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) for further information about the proposition.

Frustratingly, Vukmir will not reveal details of what the shoot entails. Against his better judgement, Milos eventually accepts the huge pay-cheque and signs a lengthy contract that ties him into making Vukmir's mysterious film.

Three days later, Milos is driven to a remote location - an orphanage - for his first day of shooting. What he witnesses shocks him but he eventually musters the enthusiasm to complete the scene, which in the process unleashes a side to him that he's kept buried for years. He's horrified by the implications of what he's seen, and what he's done, and threatens to abandon the role completely.

But a mixture of a sense of duty, wanting to provide for his family, and drugs compel Milos to continue ...

A SERBIAN FILM is not, as its title may suggest, a reveal on modern life in Serbia. Rather, it is the existential tale of one man's descent into a Hell so dark that it is often inadvertently funny.

The things that Vukmir has Milos doing are so disgusting that you get the impression co-writers Aleksandar Radivojevic and Srdjan Spasojevic (also directing) must've sat there challenging each other to come up with the most depraved ideas imaginable. They've done well: there are couple of scenes in A SERBIAN FILM that even Fred Vogel or Nick Palumbo would shy away from.

Seeing as though such scenes are the films reason for being, I'm not going to spoil the fun by describing them here. I will say though that one particular scene, about 59 minutes in, is likely to either provoke laughs or walkouts at festival screenings. It's so far beyond the parameters of good taste that I couldn't help but be amused by its absurdity. Some are bound to be offended though.

The only thing that outdoes that scene, despite the filmmakers' best efforts throughout the film's second half, is the final act - which is so predictable that it seems inevitable from about 10 minutes in. In a sense, this works in its favour - you know what's coming, but have to ask yourself "how extreme can they be about it?". The answer, of course, is pretty fucking extreme.

A SERBIAN FILM looks great. The photography and editing are extremely accomplished, lending the action a highly stylish veneer. In a sense, this renders events all the more shocking because you don't expect films of this nature to be as technically proficient as this. A special nod must also go to Sky Wikluh's ominous score, which adds palpable tension to later scenes.

The film looks and sounds like a very professional affair - performances are solid, Miroslav Stamatov's FX work is convincing and Nemanja Petrovic's production design is immaculate - but whether or not that means this is a good film is debatable.

The storytelling is somewhat confused, especially in the second half, and many loose ends remain that way. The biggest flaw plot-wise is that the action becomes increasingly silly. Which, naturally, robs the film of its initial grittiness.

As undeniably grim as it is, the film is nastier in the ideas it throws out, rather than being overtly gory. It is very grisly at times, don't get me wrong, but perhaps not as much as its early reputation insists. Instead, it's the theme of sexual violence that's really being pushed ... and that's what will alienate many potential viewers. Although there is no hardcore sex in the film, the filmmakers are not averse to incorporating fake hard-ons and shitloads of female full-frontal nudity into their scenes of violence.

A SERBIAN FILM could have been as misanthropic as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, SALO and KICHIKU DAI ENKAI were it not for a welcome sense of humour. Pitch black humour, certainly, but at least it's there. From the opening scene where Petar settles down to watch one of Dad's old films on DVD, to the boy's later obsession with the stirring feeling in his penis and another moment where he presents a phallic balloon to Milos.

Taking the odd moments of humour into account - Milos' cop brother Marko (Slobodan Bestic) is an amusingly sleazy oddball prone to excusing himself to the bathroom for an impromptu wank over Maria; later, he receives a blowjob from a prostitute while watching a video of Petar's birthday, Maria cooing "blow harder" to the boy onscreen as he attempts to put out his candles - I am tempted to suggest the entire film is intended as a blacker-than-black comedy. How else can you reason with the profoundly overwrought, over-the-top horrors that mount in the final 30 minutes?

Plus, as the film went on, Milos definitely started to look more and more like American comedian David Spade. This made it hard to take his zealous sexual rampages, induced by doses of "fuck dope", seriously.

I don't want to be too down on A SERBIAN FILM though. As I mentioned earlier, it boasts good production values and the FX are at times devastatingly effective. If you take it all seriously, it will indeed disturb you and quite probably seriously challenge your sensibilities.

I also found Vukmir's motives for what he's doing to be quite novel (if contrived), commenting on something that is a pressing issue in Serbia. And Spasojevic fills the film with contemplations on pornography, and the correlation between our brains and penises, ensuring that thematically there is a little more to chew on than mere torture porn.

Unlikely to ever get a release on UK DVD, A SERBIAN FILM is worth hunting down. For all that it's almost comically overblown, I'm looking forward to watching it again. Does that make me a sociopath?

Review by Stu Willis

Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic