Thursday, November 4, 2010

Village of Shadows (2010)

This film world premiered at this years Lincoln Centers Scary Movies series on the Friday before Halloween. It was a a wonderful way to ease into the Halloween weekend since this is a very good little movie.

The plot of the film has a bunch of college aged adults heading to a small town in France where one of them has a family home. One car of friends passes the other it goes up and over a rise. When the passed car gets over the rise they find their friends car stopped in the middle of the road with the doors wide open and no sign of anyone. It also looks like they've been gone a while.

Heading into the town the group find it strangely quiet, and deserted.

What transpires from that point are more disappearances, a reappearances and revelations of a dark secret that has cursed the town for centuries. (The film begins with events in 1944 before jumping forward to now)

This atypical horror film, actually this is more a fairy tale rather than horror film, is wonderfully free of blood and guts and shock scares. I love that the film builds tension from mood, lighting and situation.

The director, Fouad Benhammou, said at the post screening Q&A he wanted to go in the other direction of most other French horror films, which he said are more concerned with blood and guts and effects. The choice was a risky one since I think most people associate the blood and gore with horror these days and choice not to use them confuses them. I think many people in the Walter Reade on Friday didn't care for the film since the lack of gore, and a bit of silliness made the film some something less (the films only flaw is some white make up in some flash back scenes). I know the reaction after the screening was subdued. I on the other hand was excited and had I not had to catch a LIRR train I would have loved to have stayed and talked with the director. (I was suppose to leave right at the end credits but his introduction to the film was so amusing I opted to catch a later train.)

You'll forgive me for being sparse on the details of what happens but the film is a sort of puzzle box. The story is a tad confused and disjointed for much of the first half. There are bumps through time which keep us off balance and build tension. To tell you more might tell you too much and unravel the puzzle box. I will tell you that the film is full of some wonderful riffs and references and homages that make it clear there is more going on then meets the eye (there is a really cool Lovecraft reference that brought chuckles of recognition). Trust me this is a very clever film that plays with your expectations and takes cliches and turns them on their heads.

While it's not a perfect film, it is perhaps a bit too self aware, I really do like it a great deal. I like that it isn't your normal shocker. I like that it is marvelously intelligent, but mostly I love that the film hangs with you after it's over. I love that several days after I saw the film I was still talking about it wanting to take the time to sit down and write it up.

Its a film that deserves to be seen and to thrive. I don't know what the release schedule is that's planned for this film but what ever it is you need to keep an eye out for this one.

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