I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, do not underestimate the FearNet dreck to be found on On Demand. Seriously. Most of it is terrible, many of the movies will either scar me for life or leave me unable to remember inane things like stuffed bunnies or green shag carpet with any kind of fondness (though let’s face it, green shag carpet RARELY falls into the fond memories category anyway). However, every now and then you get a rare gem. A truly scary, properly horrifying, entertaining AND academic experience. Many Asian productions provide this kind of experience. A few European productions have been this kind of satisfying. I’ve even found some very well thought out American films which can be considered brethren of the greatest scary movies I’ve seen.
This movie was not one of those.
I used to be frightened of my own shadow. I hated cartoonish images of skeletons and would run and cry when Casper the Friendly Ghost came on TV during Blinky’s Fun Club.
So it’s delightfully unexpected that I like horror movies as much as I do now. But here we are. And there I am. And I’ve seen many films from the original “Ringu” to crimes against film-making like the original “Last House On the Left”. Because of this, I’ve grown accustomed to certain categories of horror films. There’s the “good scare” films, there’s the “cheap scare” films, and then there are the films where shrieking teenagers get torn asunder by mallet/chainsaw/meathook wielding maniacs dead set on causing as much fleshy damage as possible before their victims ultimately snuff it. Spatter films, as they’re more commonly called. I don’t like spatter films. Dismemberment is as distasteful to me as rape, child porn, and those up-close scenes of screaming girls being dragged down a hallway where you get to see their gooey, splintered fingernails snap off. I don’t care for squick, not one iota.
This movie was a blood-drenched squickfest. Not really as bad as, say, the entire SAW franchise. But pretty bad. The good parts of the film involve some VERY satisfying comeuppances, but the worst parts (and there are many) leave you actively engaged in the act of suspending the laws of reality in order to just let the plot soldier on.
It all starts with some spry “young people” (old enough to drink and be sexy, young enough that anyone over 30 calls ‘em kids) darting around Paris trying to escape something in the chaos of politically charged riots. Cool, right? They were involved in some kind of robbery, have a bag of money and a team-mate with a bullet wound, and a plan to get the hell out of dodge while the authorities are otherwise occupied. Great start.
Blah blah blah, turns out they split up and the first duo gets to a lil’ hotel in rural France where they get treated to some REALLY socially awkward situations (which seriously, NOBODY would sit through like these two idiots did) and then chased around with machetes or something. Actually, they end up speeding away in their car, they crash, end up in a ditch at the mouth of a cave, and they scramble their bloodied selves into the depths of the earth to hide and save themselves. Yeah, that turned out great.
It’s not a zombie movie, or a monster movie. It’s a movie about psychotic Nazi-leftovers with a taste for human flesh and their x-files style mutant offspring lurking in the dark shadows of the mine. The remaining two members of the heist-kids show up and more splattery, slurpy, screamy mayhem ensues.
The real drama of the film begins when the only woman in the party, our heroine, makes her first attempt to escape through a shallow pool of gloopy pig excrement. MMM. Heartwarming. She does a lot of gasping, shrieking, panting, stumbling, gets covered in the blood of like, eight people… like Carrie style covered in blood… and then eventually the movie comes to it’s gut-wrenching “why is she still alive – she ain’t never gonna’ be right again” close.
Honestly, and considering how much I loathe spatter films, this one was oddly satisfying. Bad stuff happens to worse people and apart from the few moments when I really did have to turn my head away because there are things I Will. Not. Watch. (no matter how good the cinematography is) the complete film wasn’t so bad. It was better than Saw, and far more reasonable than Hostel. It had some great Blair Witch moments without all the oozing noses and it offered up an interesting perspective on What Might Lurk out there in the gorgeous and bucolic landscapes of rural France.
IF, and only if, you are into movies with lots of corpses and live people getting pretty aggressively tortured, then you should probably see this. It’s got subtitles but they’re all easy to read and if you miss a few here and there you won’t be totally lost – the story doesn’t really hinge on academic dialogue, after all. If you speak French and are into movies with lost of blah blah blah, then all the better.
If not – pass. Go see Thread (a Korean or Japanese one, I think).
Now THERE is a great ride. Still a little gooey but LOTS of brain-shearing imagery that will stick with you like oatmeal.