“Life is a selfish act”
Seul Contre Tous is a sequel of sorts to director Gaspar Noe’s short film Carne. Like most of Noe’s work this is one grim & disturbing movie. While it isn’t as brutal as Irreversible it still packs one hell of a punch & is certainly not a film for everybody.
At the beginning of the movie there is a montage complete with a voiceover narration of the early life of The Butcher (Phillipe Nahon) Orphaned at a young age & abused by a priest he ends up running his own butcher shop. He marries & has an autistic daughter which causes his wife to leave him. He raises his daughter, fighting incestuous feelings for her. One day his daughter experiences her first period & the butcher sees the blood on her skirt. Thinking she has been raped he stabs a young man & is sent to prison. His shop is sold to a muslim businessman. While in prison he has a sexual relationship with one of the other inmates, but once released he vows to forget the incident & rebuild some sort of life. He gets a job in the bar he used to drink in & is seduced by the owner, who becomes pregnant. She moves with the butcher to northern France promising to buy him his own butcher’s shop. The shop is never bought & the butcher begins to hate his life with his partner culminating in the butcher viciously attacking her, repeatedly punching the pregnant woman in the stomach. He then takes a pistol & leaves, heading back to Paris. He rents the same room his daughter was conceived in but his life continues to spiral downwards until he decides to go & see his daughter.
This is one hell of a grim movie. In some ways thematically similar to Taxi Driver, Seul Contre Tous is a more personal journey into depression & mental illness. The butcher is a repulsive character, a misogynist, a racist & a homophobe. He truly is sobering reminder of just what some human beings are & are capable of. Phillipe Nahon is superb as the butcher. His performance is outstanding. He captures perfectly the utter hopelessness of a man on the very bottom of society, at war with his demons & a ticking timebomb of violence. if there was any justice Nahon would have won an Oscar for his performance but there isn’t a chance in hell the Academy Board would even recognise a film like this. Gaspar Noe frames the movie perfectly, from disturbing voiceovers by Nahon to juddering images & sounds as the movie builds up a horrific air of unease & impeding violence before the film reaches it’s climax, The movies ending is brutal & extremely disturbing, just before the climax the screen goes red with a warning that counts down 30 seconds to the film’s climax allowing anyone already shocked to avoid the ending. Yes it is a little clichéd but in most respects it works. I obviously cannot give away the ending but it makes very uncomfortable viewing. Noe followed this movie with the incredible brutal masterpiece that is Irreversible, beginning that movie with a cameo by Nahon as the butcher.
Seul Contre Tous is not a movie for everyone, it is deeply shocking & affecting & should only be viewed by those who can handle extreme cinema. For those that can this is a powerful piece of disturbing & nihilistic cinema.
“Everything has changed”
Bloody Reunion is something rare in Asian horror, it is at heart a slasher movie. This fact alone combined with an interesting film poster piqued my interest in seeing this movie. The movie itself has much more depth than your usual by the numbers slasher but the end result is slightly muddled.
Bloody Reunion is the story of a group of primary school children who return years later to visit their old & now terminally ill teacher Mrs Park, who we learn in a prologue had a deformed baby she kept in the basement & this caused her husband to hang himself. Quite soon it becomes apparent that Mrs Park wasn’t the kindest of teachers to put it mildly & her ex pupils all seem to have simmering feelings of resentment towards her. It’s not long before the former pupils are systematically murdered one by one.
The above synopsis only scratches the surface of the movie. There are several plot twists & a lot of psychological horror that elevate the movie above the usual slasher trappings. The characters are well-developed, each given time to explain their own reasons for hating Mrs Park. One of the women in the group was ridiculed about her weight by Mrs Park & is now obsessed by her own self-image, resorting to endless amounts of cosmetic surgery to try to feel better about herself. Another of the group was an aspiring athlete until his knee was perminatly damaged by a punishment Mrs Park inflicted on him. These elements are the movies strongpoints. It is as the murders start the movie begins to lose its way. There is an obvious attempt at misdirection as to who the murderer is & it fails completely & is blatantly obvious who the culprit is. This would be true if the makers of the movie hadn’t thrown several more plot twists into the film as it approaches its conclusion. The ending itself borrows heavily from a certain classic French horror movie (whose title I obviously can’t give away here) But it fails to tie up all the loose ends & finishes up looking contrived & ill thought-out. it’s the kind of ending that has you thinking WTF? It just doesn’t quite make sense. The final plot twist is comprehensible it just doesn’t logically pan out with the back story. It’s a shame really because this had the potential to be great.
Bloody Reunion is by no means a bad movie, it’s certainly worth an hour & a half of your time & it will entertain. It just could have been so much more if the ending had been presented more coherently.
“Ask no questions”
The Forbidden Door is a horror/thriller from Indonesia that took me completely by surprise when I first saw it. The movie was nothing like what I expected & turned out to be a highly complex, thought-provoking movie that really impressed me.
Gambir is a successful sculptor, as the movie begins he is exhibiting his latest collection. Surrounded by his friends, family & beautiful girlfriend, Gambir seems to have the perfect life. All too soon it becomes apparent all is not well in Gambir’s life. His family, friends & especially his girlfriend seem intent on running his life & making his decisions for him. Added to this Gambir’s sculptures are all of pregnant women which, during their creation Gambir places an aborted foetus in each one. He obtains the fetuses from a local abortion clinic where his own girlfriend goes for an abortion because her family would not take the shame of her having a child out of wedlock. It’s when Gambir starts receiving messages asking from help which seem to be coming from an abused young boy, that events begin to spiral & Gambir is drawn into the world of abuse & snuff.
The Forbidden Door is a hard film to write a synopsis for. It is one of those movies that is constantly changing. Just when you think you know what is going on & what is about to happen, the plot changes course & becomes something different. As a comparison think of how the magnificent Martyrs suddenly changes tone in an instant. The Forbidden Door does this a few times, just when you think you know whats really happening it changes. Writer/director Joko Anwar really has crafted a wonderfully suspenseful & intricate movie. Overall the movie has a David Lynch feel to it, but there are also nods to Hitchcock & De Palma in there too. The movie’s climax is stunning, bringing in a plot twist I never saw coming & that took a good few minutes for this humble reviewer to fully grasp all the subtleties by re-interpreting what had gone before. Its one of those rare movies that on the surface as you are watching it seems so straightforward yet by the end really has you thinking. The acting by all involved is first-rate, Fachry Albar deserves mention for his performance as Gambir. He captures Gambir’s utter ambivalence to life at the movies beginning, then allowing his character to come to terms with the gravity of the events unfolding around him perfectly. There is so much I could say but I’m fearful of giving too much away. I would also add that you should ignore the movie’s poster, it bares little resemblance to the film & is very misleading.
Don’t take my word for it, see this movie for yourself. I promise you that you will not be disappointed. A marvelous piece of cinema. Finally watch the end credits as there is a short scene after that ties up the final loose ends. Highly recommended.
“Is there such a thing as a man-eating boar?”
Chaw is a Korean monster movie from 2009, very similar in tone to the fantastic The Host. While Chaw isn’t as good a movie as The Host, it is still a hugely enjoyable movie. Having said that, if Spielberg or anyone involved with Jaws watches the first half of this movie, the makers of Chaw could find themselves in court!
The village of Sameri in South Korea prides itself in being “a crimeless village” Police officer Kim is transferred to Sameri just as partially devoured bodies start appearing. It soon becomes apparent that a killer boar is responsible. The village elders are worried these events will put an end to their local fair & stop “the townies” coming there to buy their produce. So they hire a famous hunter to kill the boar. The hunter returns with a dead boar but it soon becomes obvious this isn’t the offending boar. It is then left to Kim, the hunter, a detective, an old hunter & an environmental activist to head into the woods to hunt down the killer boar.
Chaw is just a hugely enjoyable monster movie. While it’s not as good as The Host it still entertains. It does share the same comedic touches as The Host but lacks the humanities that elevate The Host. As I mentioned previously, Chaw shall we say “borrows” heavily from Jaws in the first hour of the movie. This isn’t a bad thing as it allows the story to develop & draw you in. The movie is an ensemble piece & while no one excels the acting is good throughout. The characters are an interesting bunch, although the police chief is a tad too OTT for my tastes, fortunately he is very much a secondary character & isn’t on-screen too much. There is also a very strange woman in the movie who crops up from time to time & appears in a bizarre epilogue. The real star of the film is obviously the boar itself. A mixture of CGI & animatronics it is on the whole impressive. Some of the CGI is a little patchy, especially during the movies climax when the boar is seen in full charge. The movie is light on blood & gore which suits the style & tone of the movie.
There isn’t much more I can say about this movie. It is just a simple old-fashioned monster movie. It sets out to entertain & does just that.