How far would you be willing to go for your beliefs? At what point does your idealism cloud your judgment of reality? Nothing Bad Can Happen is a doozy of a film that’s meant to be difficult to watch and then haunts you for days afterward.
Tore is a young man who, at the start of the film, is baptized into a religious group called The Jesus Freaks. They are a group of young people who preach the way of Jesus with a punk-like attitude. While we don’t know of Tore’s background, he comes across as a drifter who has no family and believes he’s found his home among the commune-like religious group. One day while riding around with his new friends, he notices a family whose vehicle has broken down. Nobody has any jumper cables to offer, but Tore so believes in Jesus that he asks of his friends to pray with him for this family and their vehicle. And lo and behold the vehicle starts up. Tore speaks with the father, Benno, and tells him of his group and when their next sermon is being held. Benno actually shows up to the sermon, which is about loving your enemies. If your right cheek is slapped, then offer your left cheek. The sermon is obvious foreshadowing concerning Tore’s journey through this film.
A rock concert follows the sermon, and as Tore is dancing he suddenly falls to the ground in an epileptic seizure. No one seems to take any notice except Benno, who carries him off and takes Tore back to his home. Observing that Tore doesn’t have a place to live, Benno offers an invitation to Tore to live with him and his family, which consists of his wife Astrid and her two children. Tore views the invitation as a sign that this is where Jesus wants him be, and he happily accepts the offer. Benno sets up a tent in their yard where Tore can sleep, and in return Tore helps Benno around the property doing yard work.
At first everything seems wonderful. Benno appears to connect with Tore in a father and son way, especially since his step-son Danny is just a young child and he can’t relate to his teenage step-daughter Sanny. But Benno is clearly the alpha-male of the family. Tore walks in on Benno sexually abusing Sanny and steps in to interfere which only enrages Benno. He forbids Tore from eating when it’s meal time. And thus begins a test of wills.
Tore tries to leave, only to discover that The Jesus Freaks have disbanded. Having no money and no place to stay, he returns, but is also convinced that he should endure whatever suffering Benno inflicts because Jesus is testing his faith. With Benno denying him food, Tore becomes frail and withdrawn. He desperately starts looking for any scraps of food he can find. This leads him to pulling some meat out of the trash and hiding it in his tent. But Benno discovers it and shows Astrid, who then accuses Tore of robbing from them. To punish him, Astrid and Benno hold Tore down, while forcing the now rotten meat into his mouth until Tore finally breaks and eats the rest of the meat on his own.
Things continue to spiral downward. Sanny sneaks Tore off the property and gets him to a hospital, as he now has food poisoning. The doctor notices the signs of abuse on Tore’s body, but Tore lies and makes excuses for how he got them. And yet after he recovers he still returns to this family, where the abuse just gets worse.
Even though there are religious themes throughout the movie, this is still a story about abuse. In the beginning, Tore is young and naive, but his faith gives his life purpose. Being a drifter, he’s the perfect type to end up as a victim of abuse. As his suffering gets worse, his faith becomes a defense mechanism which he uses to justify his situation and keep his sanity. The film portrays Tore as a somewhat Christ-like figure in contrast with Benno’s devil. Benno is determined to destroy Tore’s faith to the point where Tore’s suffering is similar to Christ’s suffering. But I didn’t see the story as a good versus evil one. This is a psychological story dealing with human nature.
There is a certain unevenness to this story that somewhat puzzled me. While Benno is clearly the abuser, it came out of nowhere when Astrid joined in on the abuse. Benno and Astrid have friends over who seem concerned for Tore’s health when he’s coming down with food poisoning. But by the final act, they too join in on the abuse. It seems out of character. And when the torture is over, they sit there, stunned as if they don’t know what came over them. Maybe there is a darkness that lies within everyone, and for these characters it was triggered and took over for that brief moment.
As the film ends, the credits state that this story was inspired by true events. And when I think of all the crazy stories that pop up in the news concerning kidnapped and abused children I realize that maybe this story is closer in truth any story you can make up. It’s what makes it so unsettling, because people like this do exist in the world, and that’s scarier than any movie monster from a typical horror film.