Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï, Catherine Bégin
Having sat through most of the new wave of Euro-horror and seen that they largely fail to live up to the fanboy hype, it's quite refreshing to report that I've finally found one that doesn't disappoint. It perhaps helped that I wasn't too aware of it before viewing, but this certainly has to go down as one of the most disturbing movies I've seen in a long time. The basic premise is nasty enough: Lucie (Jampanoï), a young girl is chained up in a basement, but escapes from her abusers. Fifteen years later, she goes back to find them, and take bloody revenge with a shotgun. That, in itself, would make for quite a story. However, here, it's only the starting-point, and the more we discover, the more unsettling things become. Lucie was helped by Anna (Alaoui): the two became companions in the institution where they grew up, but in the blood-drenched house, Anna discovers the truth about what happened to Lucie. Firstly, her friend was not the only victim - and it's in this sequence that the words, "This is really fucked-up," escaped my lips (and not for the last time). And then, we discover the reason for the torture. Yes: reason, for there is a philosophy behind it, and as you learn about that, the full impact of the film is finally delivered.
Reading some other reviews, it seems to be remarkably divisive, even among horror fans, with every good review apparently getting blasted in the comments, and vice-versa. I can see both points of view, but don't buy into the theory that this is just torture for the sake of it, under the cover of flimsy pseudo-theological pretensions. While the torture is portrayed with unflinching detail [my heart goes out to poor Alaoui], you eventually realize the purpose. This is full-on confrontational horror, which doesn't just show you the darkest part of human nature, it gives you an inkling of why people can do these things to others, and may even suggest that the end justifies the means - though the final shot (and I mean that in more ways than one), perhaps raises more questions than it answers. It's no surprise that Laugier was attached for a while to the Hellraiser remake, as this shares much the same combination of religion, and transcendentalism through pain. It's a supremely-twisted piece of no-holds barred film-making, that pulls no punches and, love it or hate it, will not easily be forgotten.