Of all the film genres, supernatural horror is my favorite. I find stories about ghosts and the beyond fascinating, and this is the only genre that ever gets a rise out of me, even on a small level. I’m always on the lookout for tales of the paranormal. Since it’s Halloween time, my search has led me to this pair of lesser-seen horror movies from two directors who are better known for other projects.
Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three ‘Saw’ installments and ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera‘, tackles issues of faith, death, family and predestination is this supernatural horror flick about mystical conspiracies in numerology. The wacky yet mildly entertaining premise manages to surprise by story’s end, and may be the best thing Bousman has done in his short career. (Sorry, I think ‘Repo!’ is just garbage disguised with lots of empty style and flair.)
Bousman’s two most recent projects demonstrate that he’s losing favor with his audience just as quickly as he gained it. In ’11-11-11′, however, the young filmmaker shows some clever wit in a script that creates amusing scenarios from which to chat about the Bible and religion. Popular author and unyielding atheist Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs) spends time with his dying, bedridden father and his physically disadvantaged brother (Michael Landes), both of whom are pastors at an unorthodox church. The brothers’ conversations ignore profound implications in favor of dropping clues to viewers that will eventually build to the story’s shocking final twist.
The movie doesn’t start off very strongly, and is frankly a bit dull. Bousman’s nonsensical and rather amateurish direction doesn’t help. However, once the plot moves to Barcelona, things improve dramatically with a gloomy, portentous atmosphere and a mystery that’s worth investigating. Hooded, otherworldly creatures also make some scary appearances. The movie has many effective jump scares and a light air of suspense throughout, all of which leads to an eerily entertaining conclusion. The film is a fun watch this Halloween season.
Pascal Laugier, a name some will recognize as the twisted imagination behind the French shocker ‘Martyrs’, made his feature-length debut with this creepy spook-fest set inside an abandoned orphanage. Using several common tricks of the trade, such as unexplained noises in another room or disembodied whispers lurking behind every shadow, Laugier very patiently builds a bizarre mystery concerning the orphanage’s dark, disturbing past. Some may see this as a weakness. For others, part of the movie’s charm comes from how slowly and carefully the pieces come together.
The director also brings a great deal of style to a plot about a young cleaning woman (Virginie Ledoyen) hired to help another employee (Dorina Lazăr) tidy up the place before it permanently closes. With cinematography by Pablo Rosso and music by Joseph LoDuca that add another haunting layer, the film has a lovely, mesmerizing quality. As we explore the enormous château and uncover various clues with the beautiful Anna (Ledoyen), we learn that she also comes with an unsettling past, hinted at by the scars on her back and a pregnancy that she tries to hide rather poorly. As the story escalates, we wonder about the woman’s sanity, especially her belief that the souls of former orphans walk the halls of the orphanage. It doesn’t help that the only remaining orphan, a woman named Judith (Lou Doillon) who still acts like a child, emboldens Anna’s quest with her own memories of the past and her constant chattering about the children.
‘Saint Ange’ is an entertaining little fable with several unnerving sequences and other moments that leave you guessing. Has the young woman lost her marbles, or is there really something amiss in the old abandoned building?