Written & directed by: Julia Ducournau
I should say straight away, I had very little knowledge about this film, and that’s partly because of the trailer if I remember rightly. The trailer told you very little about what REALLY goes on in this movie which I love because it was such a shock when watching it. You knew something bad was going to happen at some point but there was never really one huge ‘BANG! THIS IS HORRIFYING’ moment. It was very subtle small things that, because of the simplistic nature of the plot, came across as the worst things to watch at that moment in time!
PLOT: Our protagonist (Justine), is being driven by her parents to veterinary school (which by the way, has the most extreme initiation by pouring gallons of animal’s blood onto the first-years!). We find out at the beginning of the film they are staunchly vegetarian. When she gets to school she meets up with her sister, ends up with a gay roommate and things progressively get darker and twisted right up until the final scene!
First off, this is not your average horror movie. In fact, it feels more like a ‘coming of age ‘ film with a horror angle attached! It has the relatable, ‘coming of age’ feel of The Perks of Being A Wallflower shadowed with the dark, twisted twin of Let the Right One In! It feels more real than real life!
There are no ‘jump scares’ by the music (which I hate), only by visuals so the horror is really all being built up in your own head. So much so that when something completely normal happens you jump or it scares you way more than it should and I love that. It brilliantly messes with your mind and doesn’t just play with horror conventions!
To help build the tension the music is there. But as I said, there are no sticcato notes being played to convey obvious horror incase the visual doesn’t do the job. It’s all done very gradually and just holds onto very long notes that stretch a few octaves which I felt seemed to reflect the emotions of which ever charcter was on screen at the time. So when someone was getting angry the music would fade in and the pitch would get higher and higher until the character has completely emoverloaded (you’re welcome to use that word 😉 ) and then the music comes back down the octaves and fades out again. It’s done absolutely brilliantly and explaining it doesn’t do it justice at all!
Now onto the horror bits in more detail. If you have a strong gag reflex then I should warn you there’s a really, really (what feels like) long scene of our protagonist coughing up A LOT. I mean A LOT. Of her own hair. Which is weird as we only see her chew on her hair in one scene. She is chewing on it pretty hard but still, what she coughs up is way more than what she seems to chew on. But this scene was very hard to watch. And that seemed like a motif in the film; all the ‘horror’ scenes were really tough to watch. But the thing was, none of them were particularly gory. There’s not a lot of gore in this movie. Hardly any blood that shouldn’t be out of a body. But all the injuries that occur in the movie seem to be amplified by the ‘coming of age’ feel. So someone’s finger being chopped off half way through giving someone a brazillian is absolutely shocking when witnessing it. Even after seeing a few horrific scenes BEFORE the brazillian you know that when the word ‘brazillian’ is mentioned you’re expecting something horrific to happen with the wax or something. Again, playing with your mind totally and building up the tension all by yourself. There are plenty more scenes to make your tongue curl but I won’t say any more. All I’ll say is that watching someone scratch their body in bed can be absolutely haunting to watch…
Having said all of this, I expected more to the plot as it’s quite simple but creatively executed. But I felt like we needed more answers as a lot of things were left unanswered. A few things were just accepted by the characters in the film a lot of the time which if it was real life people surely would freak out. I know I said it seems more real than real life but that element was one of about 2 or 3 that seemed unrealistic in relation to the plot of the movie.
The ending also felt a bit ambiguous and the viewer feels as lost and as full of questions as the protagonist clearly is.
I liked this movie but I felt like it could have given a bit more exposition to some of the characters and their actions. I saw it in the cinema at the Prince Charles cinema in London and I gotta say, seeing it on the big screen was absolutely worth it and I recommend you buy it if you have a home cinema set up or even just a larger than average TV!
My Rating – 6/10 | IMDB – 7.3/10 | Rotten Tomatoes – 90%