Horror fans will possibly draw comparisons between this and disturbing 2008 French horror Martyrs, due to it being from the same director Pascal Laugier … yet that would be unfair as Martyrs is a polarising movie and this, despite similar themes, is a little more conventional. Following a home invasion when she was a teenage girl, successful horror novelist Beth (Crystal Reed) finds herself having to return to the house where the incident occurred after receiving a phone call from her traumatised older sister, who seemingly has never recovered. However once back in the family home, Beth begins to realise the nightmare of that night may not be over.
Laugier has delivered an intense experience that’s dripping with foreboding atmosphere. It dabbles in the horror conventions of The Texas Chainsaw Masacre and Hostel but also turns such conventions on their head with a strong focus on psychological trauma along with some clever twists. The two characters that invade the family home sent chills, especially the tall thin one with long black hair. The constant imagery of dolls may be a genre cliche but manages to feel freakier than usual, especially with how it plays out.
Creatively shot throughout, with an unflinching tone (even if the score is a tad too in-your-face at times), Laugier does not hold back. This goes for it with a number of frantic, very violent encounters Some of the smaller details do get lost in the chaos at times, with motives and background left to one’s imagination. However as a slightly more mainstream horror, this is probably the director’s best work to date and certainly a must for horror junkies.
Two things to get straight right away. This has nothing to do with the villain of cult favorite series Phantasm, and secondly this isn’t the kind of deeply disturbing, torture endurance test that was Martyrs; Director Pascal Laugier’s previous effort. Starring a dowdy Jessica Biel (sigh…) as a Nurse in a small town that has been rocked to it’s core by a series of child kidnappings, this is a slow burning, creepy and effecting thriller.
I think anyone going into this with memory of Martyr’s might be cautious. Without going into detail, that movie remains one of the most disturbing, get-under-your-skin horror movies ever made, and I still haven’t had the guts to sit down and watch it again. So I understand why this may not have had the press coverage or advertising it deserves. Laugier’s name has become infamous, and it’s a shame because on this evidence he’s a very capable and intelligent film maker. I liked how on the surface it was a mystery surrounding a ghostly boogeyman, but with a real-world relevance that should hit a cord with almost everyone aware of child abduction cases. However this takes a well-trodden subject and shakes it up, with surprising and thought-provoking results. Add to this some thrilling moments (Biel chasing after the kidnapper for example), unnerving editing / camera work, and solid acting with Biel proving more than her usual eye-candy, and also a quality turn from from Jodelle Ferland (Tideland) … I was suitably gripped.
Laugier’s movie likes to play with your expectations, and although I felt the clever narrative occasionally detracted from the overall impact, I still wish to salute the Director for not taking the predictable route with this.
Oh my god. I have seen some f**** up stuff in my time, and have a pretty high tolerance for violent movies, but something about this latest French export got under my skin. This hard hitting horror movie takes its lead from torture porn extravaganzas such as Hostel and Saw then cranks it up to eleven, whilst hammering home a disturbingly believable premise that, I’m not ashamed to admit, made me feel guilty for watching.
Lucie is a damaged, disturbed young woman who when she was a child was kidnapped and physically abused, only to escape in the film’s opening minutes as we witness her run, battered, bruised and crying, semi-naked down a dusty road. Soon the film cuts to fifteen years later and Lucie turns up on the doorstep of a seemingly innocent family, sporting a double-barrel shotgun, and proceeds to exact her revenge in a bloody, unrelenting killing spree. Then the movie gets really nasty. This is certainly not an experience (and it is an experience) for anyone easily shocked, as there are scenes here of physical violence, drawn out and unflinching, mixed with horrific hallucinations, all leading to an ending that once seen, will surely lay imprinted on your subconscious for days. I kid you not.
Pascal Laugier’s film is obviously an experiment in endurance, but also has a powerful, real world message of the evil that lurks among the seemingly innocent. This kind of stuff happens, we as a species are capable of horrendous acts of cruelty and violence, and this showcases exactly how far someone might take such extremes. I’m going to recommend this though, as even though as a piece of entertainment its not really suitable for anyone – but as an example of just how far movies can go to shock and disturb – this one is there … with a bullet.
A special mention must go to the fascinating 85 minute documentary included on this UK Optimum release, that although sheds no light on the reasoning behind the films disturbing themes, gives a detailed look into the film-making process with a wealth of rehearsal and make-up effects footage that created for me an increased admiration for the film makers and their obvious talents.
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