Wednesday, March 30, 2011

La Meute (2010)

aka The Pack

In a big no-no for each and every horror film ever made, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne) picks up a hitchhiker from the side of a country road. The hitchhiker Max (Benjamin Biolay, whom I mostly know as a musician and who does act with the expected lack of varied facial expressions) guides her to the small country bar of La Spack (Yolande Moreau), where the couple is soon enough attacked by roaming rapist rockers. Fortunately, La Spack owns a shotgun and is willing to threaten to use it. After that bit of excitement is over, Max wanders off to the toilet, never to appear again.

La Spack just shrugs his disappearance off, but Charlotte has taken enough of a shine to the hitchhiker to wait (not the least bit suspiciously) right in front of the bar in her car for nightfall to do a little break-in and reconnaissance. Unfortunately, the bar owner's no complete idiot, catches the girl, and sticks her in a cage. Turns out Max hasn't really disappeared either, but is in fact La Spack's son. Why the disappearance charade, you ask? I have not the faintest idea, and I suspect the scriptwriter doesn't have one, either.

Anyway, this little lapse in narrative logic is not Charlotte's biggest problem. That would be the fact that La Spack and Max kidnap people, bleed them dry and/or (again, don't ask, I didn't write this thing) feed them to the blind cannibalistic undead that are the product of a mine accident, or digging too deep - or something.

At least, there's a pensioned ex-cop (Philippe Nahon) on Charlotte's trace, so there's hope for her survival even beyond her own attempts at saving her life.

I often like my movies random and have a big place in my heart for the nonsensical and the confused in cinema, but this French black comedy/backwoods horror/creature feature concoction's tendency to go off into a different tonal or stylistic direction every five minutes, as well as its utter lack of even vaguely believable character motivations or the simplest attempts at keeping to an internal logic mostly ended up annoying me. Why, just to take the most obvious example, does our designated heroine go off to fight the movie's monsters after she's been rescued instead of legging it? Only because sixty minutes do not a feature film make, I'm afraid, and because director/writer Franck Richard couldn't come up with a better (well, actually, any) explanation. I don't even want to begin trying to fathom the motivation of Max for first helping his mother killing who knows how many people, but then changing sides quite completely. Yeah, sure, he's supposed to have a crush on Charlotte, but there's a difference between that and helping to kill one's mother and the monsters one has been feeding for years. Neither the script nor Biolay's wooden non-acting do anything to sell the idea. And let's not even mention the random rapist rockers.

Still, there's a lot to be said for the value of heaps of disconnected, under-explained crap in a movie - it can surprise, it can delight, it can put a viewer's mind in spaces the products of orderly professionalism can't reach; said crap does however need to be entertaining, interesting or just pretty darn loopy and not only random and pieced together from the horror clichés of the day. That's exactly where La Meute truly falters, because there are only a handful of scenes, and a bit of spirited production design worth more than a confused shrug.

The film's either very brown or very desaturated visuals don't make it any easier for me to like it. I know, I know, science says that only brown, grey, and yellow are colours conducive to creating a bleak mood. On the other hand, extensive research into other movies has shown that the use of the whole colour spectrum (I'd even be satisfied with the addition of green and red) in colour films can have the most fascinating effects on viewers like keeping them awake, and can even be used to enrich a film's mood, content, or themes if applied with thought and care. On the negative side, the use of more intense colour schemes makes the urine coloured skies contemporary horror filmmakers love so dearly nearly impossible to realize; and where would we be then?

It's a horrible day when I feel the need to call a film too incoherent and tonally inconsistent to bother with, but there you have it: La Meute is just too incoherent and tonally inconsistent to bother with.


No comments: