Friday, June 16, 2017

Past Misdeeds: Hair of the Beast (2010)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

Original title: Le Poil De La Bête

Nouvelle France, 1665. The charming, if unwashed, rogue and professional seducer of women Joseph Cote (Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge), has worked his charm on the wrong girl this time, and has been sentenced to be hanged. Using his mildly impressive wit, Joseph manages to escape from his jail cell and flees into the barely settled lands outside of Quebec. On his way, he finds the rather shredded corpse of a Jesuit priest, and decides to take what's left of the dead man's clothes and belongings; surely, as a priest he will have a much easier life getting around. In his new priestly persona, Joseph is soon enough attacked by something large, fast and hairy that knocks him out. He is rescued by a farmer who takes him into the small settlement he's living in - and by "small", I really mean small. Two large-ish huts, one church and a slightly better built house for the noble owner of these lands - who is off in Quebec right now acquiring potential brides for his sons and servants - a walk through the woods away, are all the place has to offer.

Joseph is invited to stay for the night, certainly not expecting what will happen next. While the handful of men of the place sits around a fire singing and telling stories, a werewolf attacks, killing one of them and hurting Joseph's leg during the priestly rogue's surprisingly effective attempt at fighting the monster off. The next day, the local landholder, a Seigneur de Beauport (Gilles Renaud) and two of his three sons return with a wagon full of King's Daughters (historical bonus note: these weren't daughters of the French king, but orphaned or half-orphaned young French women from poor families whose emigration and marriage were sponsored by the French crown to solve its colony's population problem once the French got afraid of the fast growth of the neighbouring English colony and realized that if they wanted to keep making money off their part of the Americas, they'd need to transform their minor outpost into an actual colony). For some preposterous reasons of that aren't the least bit suspicious, the Seigneur decides to keep the women in "quarantine" inside the church for a few days. Joseph soon enough takes the arising opportunity to do some of that seducing business he's so keen on but actually falls in love with his victim, Marie Labotte (Viviane Audet). That'll come in handy to motivate him to not run away later on.

Alas, Joseph's unpriestly demeanour (turns out having no clue about the contents of the bible and running around seducing women isn't what the locals expect from their priests; add your own joke about actual priests preferring little boys here) provokes the ire of the settlers who now decide that he's a werewolf and must be burned at the stake. Fortunately, the true werewolf attacks before worse things can happen and Joseph kills him with a cross-shooting crossbow he found in the priest's belongings. The dead priest, you see, was the French colony's premier expert on werewolf hunting. Of course, his stuff will come in handy when it turns out that there's more than one werewolf around. Whoever might it be?

As the rather preposterous sounding and overly complicated (and believe me, I've left out even more complications, asides, and characters; like the scriptwriters should have) plot synopsis already might have clued you in on, French-Canadian comedy/historical adventure/horror movie Le Poil De La Bête is neither the best written, nor the most coherent, nor the most sensible of films. If I were of a nastier disposition, I'd even suggest that it's really a pretty stupid film written by people who can't think of a better way to construct a plot than as a series of coincidences happening to a group of clichés (or, as is the case, by two very inexperienced writers: one guy who until now only worked in the electrical department of movies, and another one whose second script this was). Fortunately, Le Poil leaves me in a much better mood than it has any right to, so I can happily declare that, yes, the film's incredibly stupid, its plotting feels lazy and uninspired, and (former TV director) Philippe Gagnon's direction just doesn't do much that's exciting, but it also is a decently entertaining piece of fluff.

Decently entertaining, that is, when you are able to just roll with the bunch of nonsense the film throws at you. Don't even expect it to try to fuse the three genres it is working in into a whole. Instead of trying to connect its disparate genre parts, Le Poil makes do with having one (sometimes even funny) comedy scene, then one (usually neither horrifying nor disturbing) horror one, then one bit of (at times dumb, at times weirdly authentic feeling, unfortunately always confusing people of the past having beliefs that seem strange to us now with them being idiots) historical adventuring, in the grand old tradition of "one damn thing after another" movies. So, for Cthulhu's sake, don't expect it to be more than a series of possibly awesome events made kinda fun, kinda unfun, or you'll never have an entertaining second with the movie.

Even though it might not sound like it, I did get my ninety minutes of entertainment from the film. Le Poil is the type of movie that doesn't do a lot (or, probably, anything) right, but keeps its failings so varied that it leaves me - while not interested in its ideas, or convinced of anything amounting to its quality - looking forward to what stupid, unsuccessful stunt it's going to try to pull next. That must be a success of some kind.

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