amer | thriller | helene cattet | bruno forzani | cassandra foret | charlotte eugene guibeaud | marie bos | giallo | neo-giallo | france | belgium | biancamaria d'amato | harry cleven | jean-michel vovk | bernard marbaix | thomas bonzani | francois cognard | allegory | homage
Director: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Writer: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Starring: Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud and Marie Bos
This film was one that I never heard of until I started working my way through the Fangoria Top 300 horror movies issue. That first viewing I thought it was okay and came up on it after that second viewing. This movie though was really lost on me until I got into watching giallo films, realizing what it is paying homage to. I have now given it a third viewing as part of the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge for the 2000s. The synopsis is as a young girl Ana (Cassandra Forêt). She was also tormented by images of death and shadowy, ominous figure in black. Now as an adult, she is once again tormented by shadowy, other-worldly forms.
We start here as the synopsis states with our character of Ana. She lives with her mother, Bianca Maria D’Amato, and father, Jean-Michel Vovk. There is another woman living there as well by the name of Graziella (Delphine Brual). This woman was helping Ana’s grandfather until he passed away. Her mother doesn’t like this woman as she believes her to be a witch. They continue to find dead birds in the house that Graziella is using.
Ana seems to be tormented by Graziella. She has a tendency to look into keyholes and spy on those around her. This does draw err from her mother. Ana also decides to take a pocket watch from her deceased grandfather, Bernard Marbaix. This becomes a traumatic event though as she has to hide under the bed when her mother and father come in, while also breaking the dead man’s finger to get it out. She is also haunted by images of him, Graziella and other things in her nightmares.
The film then shifts to Ana as a teenager, now being played by Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud. She wears a short dress and sucks on her hair. Together with her mother, the two of them walk along the road to a nearby store. Ana is a bit willful and this once again draws the anger of her mother. We see that there is innocence there with her, but her body is developed and drawing the attention of adult males in the area.
This all culminates with Ana as an adult, played by Marie Bos. She is returning to the house that she grew up in, which has fallen into disrepair. After arriving in the area by train, she is driven to the house by a taxi driver, portrayed by Harry Clevan. As she is cleaning up some things that were left behind in the house, she hears some things. The water is off, but she has an encounter in the bathtub with someone that we only see in a silhouette, François Cognard. She also believes that the taxi driver returns to the house with a scarf she left in his car. The question then becomes, is there anyone else there with her or just in her mind?
I think that gets you up to speed with what this movie is doing. As I was saying in my introduction to this movie, this is one that I really didn’t fully grasp what it is trying to do until I got into watching giallo films. This is really paying homage to this subgenre from France and Belgium. It does well in some categories for what it does, but it also falls short in others in my opinion.
To start with the positives, I love the look of this movie. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani are the co-writers/co-directors and I think they nailed the aesthetic. Their use of different color lights really does remind of things that Mario Bava and Dario Argento did in the past. We really get to see this with the young and adult versions of Ana for sure. This movie looks beautiful. There is also a creepy and haunting atmosphere which is partly aided by the house this mostly takes place in. Initially I thought that it was the house from Deep Red, but the more I saw it, the more I realized that it wasn’t. There are some similar aspects though.
Going along with the atmosphere of the movie, I think next I should cover the soundtrack. The selections are definitely giallo-esque and when I was watching the credits, I can see why. They were taken from legit giallo films like The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, What Have They Done to Your Daughters and Killer Cop. Ennio Morricone also seems to have done a song specific for this movie as well. I’ve not seen these movies, but I’ve heard some of these selections before. I’m a big fan of this type of music and it fits the vibe the movie is going for.
Another thing this movie nails is that we get a black gloved killer during the adult stage of this movie. They also are carrying a straight razor as well. The taxi driver also has a switchblade here as well. This unfortunately is where the comparisons end to the paying homage to giallo films.
Taking this to a negative, the movie is really lacking a story for me. It is a character study of Ana, which I will delve into, but we aren’t getting any type of investigation here like we would with the giallo film. This is taking the look and feel, but lacking the story to really become a neo-giallo film. For me, this does hurt the film if I’m going to be honest.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy where this movie was taking us. It is still interesting in what we get for this character study. We are establishing that when Ana is a girl, she has some vivid fantasies. This isn’t uncommon, but what she does to her grandfather’s hand is traumatic. Having Graziella chase her around is as well. Ana is to fault here a bit for what she does though. That’s not to say though that everything we are seeing is real. Ana is also a voyeur with her peeking through the keyholes. This does backfire when she comes in and sees her parents making love.
When Ana is a teen, I think what the movie is doing here is showing us that despite how developed her body is, she is still a child. The voyeurism is taken from her a bit here as we see men looking at her throughout this. There is the boy who has the soccer ball who is aroused by her. There is the shop owner who treats her like a child and tries to give her candy. It is really the bikers that are watching her as she strolls by. The wind is blowing at her dress, which she doesn’t really stop as much as she should. She doesn’t necessarily realize the implications here either.
To end my thoughts on the story with Ana as an adult, I think we’re seeing a culmination of what we got in the other two periods of her life. The movie does well in making her experience on the train seem sexual. She then has to deal with the taxi driver trying to look up her dress. The isolation of the house and her traumas culminate in what happens in the end here.
Since I’ve delved into this character, I should comment next on the acting. Forêt does well as the child version. She does a solid job in showing fear and establishing that this character has some issues. Guibeaud is probably my least favorite of the trio taking on Ana. I don’t think she does anything bad, but she really just plays everything stoic. I think that Bos does a solid job though incorporating elements of the child version with the look of the teenager. She also has some interesting reactions to things. Aside from that, I think that D’Amato, Cleven, Cognard and the rest of the cast push this character to where she needs to end up.
Then the last thing I want to go over would be the effects. We really don’t get a lot of them and it really isn’t that type of movie. I think the make-up to make the grandfather look dead was good. He really looked creepy. The best effects come with the adult story. We get a brutal looking attack with the straight razor. My only gripe is that there wasn’t enough blood with it for realism. With my take on the attack though, I can be forgiving there.
In conclusion, I think this movie looks great. It does well in paying homage to gialli films with that. It is lacking a story though to bring this together. I think that the character study of Ana is solid. All three actresses work well in establishing her and to where she ends up. The rest of the cast do well in pushing her there. The effects we get work along with the soundtrack to the movie. This is a bit boring though if I’m going to be honest and it is lacking the mystery this subgenre really needs. With that said, I find this still to be an above average movie for what I do like. If you love the aesthetic of gialli, I think you can appreciate this movie. I can’t recommend this though if you are looking for a strong story though.
My Rating: 7 out of 10