Thursday, 8 October 2009

ILS (Them) Review

French cinema or World cinema in general is something that I’m passionate about. It has somewhat of a reputation for being ‘artsy’ and ‘pretentious’, and consequently is avoided by the average cinema attendee as though it is Leatherface or something just as nefarious. Presumably because the only time the plebeians like to see foreigners on screen is when they’re impaled on Rambo’s serrated edge. In reality the problem seems to be is that with being subtitled a certain level of reading is required – not that it should be an issue providing you didn’t find the scrolling text intro on Star Wars ‘heavy going’, but I guess people are inherently lazy so fuck them.

Released in 2006 this French horror film directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud is purportedly based on true events –which we know means it will be mostly fabricated. The story concerns Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) a young teacher who alongside her lover Lucas (Michael Cohen) is tormented by mysterious assailants, who are so enigmatic that they could be unicorn breeders from the darkside of the moon for all I know. Jokes aside this film is good, really good almost knocking the adolescent Che Guevara of the Home Alone films off his fucking pedestal as the king of the house siege genre; though admittedly ILS is more gritty, tense and harrowing than that film and doesn’t feature anything as disturbing as Joe Pesci.

The whole ordeal begins shortly after the couple commits the cardinal horror movie sin of moving to the remotest location possible, the type of place typically situated near the abandoned abattoir housing a family of deformed and cannibalistic hillbillies. Ignoring such glaring warnings as a desolated car in the middle of nowhere which while not unusual in broken Britain would surly rouse suspicion in idyllic Bucharest countryside. Later that night the couple is disturbed by calamity from outside, namely their car being stolen – talk about a frosty housewarming. This act forces the couple to deal with the truly evil and despicable monsters of the film – their insurance company, who true to form demonstrate that they have hearts constructed from small animal bones. Next the lights go out – leaving the film to descend into the usual formula: things going bump in the night before the ghost/zombie/vagrant of the hour jumps out to sell the victim double glazing.

In all fairness the film is slightly more sophisticated since it isn’t in a rush like most Hollywood films to get the black guy violently killed. The directors actually manage to create a sense of dread as the protagonists navigate their way through the darkness, whimpering and defenseless; this feeling of foreboding persists for the rest of the movie from the initial events in the house through to their attempted escape and subsequent capture. It keeps on the edge for the entire ride, and that makes the ending all the more powerful. Of course any compassion you have is marred by the fact they are French and this could be karmatic justice for all those collaborators in WW2, ha-ha I do joke. The acting and script is decent enough, Michael Cohen and Olivia Bonamy manage to come across as genuinely distraught without ever going over the top à la The Blair Witch Project. Though I will say this and I don’t mean to be boorish but the character of Lucas is fucking useless – serving only to slow Clementine down and in his two attempts at confrontation he manages to get severely injured and then brutally killed; at least she shows signs of competence and for that matter signs of life. Seriously his patheticness during the escape in which he barely tries to climb a ten foot fence before giving up makes it seem like he is running away from an army of pink teddy bears that want to hug him to death; Christ no wonder the French left the invasion of Normandy to the rest of the allies. The murderers are constant menace especially that creepy ten year old who constantly cries “Why won’t you play with us?” in a manner reminiscent of Chucky and The girl from Poltergeist.

The film is pretty short at roughly 77 minutes long, which is a good decision in terms of maintaining tension. Not that this really matters because all the wondering and mystery is brutally slain at the conclusion when the events are revealed to be a typical case of youth related violence. Talk about escapism. If I wanted a reminder of the brutality of real life I would check the tread marks the bankers left on my arse after walking over me with their cavalier ways. The revelation at the end stating the assailants were all between the ages of ten and fifteen had no effect on me, simply because I wasn’t surprised – broken Britain again. Personally I would have left the identities of the murderers unknown as people, me included, fear the unknown whether it be the uncertainty of life after death or something as simple as a strange noise during the night. For me that would have been far more effective since my cynical nature is as shocked by preschool violence as the writer probably is.

Despite all my penurious remarks I absolutely enjoyed this riveting film and recommend it to you. A film that is shocking, pulse pounding, raw and all the other clichéd accolades under the sun that get thrown around…Hollywood pay attention and write some fucking notes.