Director: Eric Vallette
Four very different inmates are sharing one cell in a French prison. When they find a mysterious book of occult spells, they try to use its shaky magic to escape. Things don’t go as planned. Like...at all! No, really…like AT ALL! YIPPEE!
FANTASIA FESTIVAL 2003 ENTRY
I love surprises and when I sat down to watch the French horror flick “Malefique”, I knew absolutely nothing about it and had zero expectations in regards to what it would deliver. Well, give this dog a bone, some “Kibbles” and a bitch in heat. The lack of funds definitely worked in this film’s favor since the director and screenwriters (Alexandre Charlot et Franck Magnier) had to be more inventive to compensate and therein, delivered a pretty strong fear show.
"Malefique" is an insanely engrossing, deliciously mysterious and refreshingly mature treat. What really made it happen for me though were, first and foremost, the characters that populated this cell. Backed by strong dialogue, rock-solid characterization and stellar acting, the players and the interaction between them consumed me for a buck and a half. Props go out to all for their expert displays, but especially to Gerard Laroche (Carrere) for giving one hell of a captivating performance. I could not take my eyes off the man every time he was on-screen. Talk about intense!
The film’s horror tricks also stimulated me in the right way. Although some of the fear devices found here were somewhat familiar, they were well executed and got the intended reactions out of me. Another plus is that I really had no idea as to where this storyline was going with unpredictable plot turns, left and right. That’s freaking rare for me! It felt awesome "not" to know! The screenwriters should give me their home addresses so I can snail mail them a baguette of bread, a bottle of wine, an issue of Swank magazine and a pack of smokes. They did a bang-on job. I felt so anxious throughout this movie and was taken for genre loop-the-loops more than once.
Vibe-wise, the pace of the flick was slow, but craftman like in its rhythms. It just kept pulling me in deeper and deeper to imminently engulf me whole. I also totally grooved on the flick’s swaying claustrophobic nature. Ninety eight percent of this tale was set in one jail cell and it so worked. With the setting being supported by the old school and subtle directing style, I was beyond horror charmed! You can’t go wrong with creepy slow cam movements, brilliant use of silences and a thick spread of dread-filled atmosphere buttered about. Lastly, I appreciated this film's restraint use of CGI and gore. The grounded nature of the flick was never negated and the tone always remained realistic-- even when the supernatural scenarios were a little “out there”.
On a negative note, the character of Paquerette, which was well interpreted (maybe too well) by Dimitri Rateau, sadly got on my nerves more than a yapping poodle humping my leg. You know the type...he acts like a petulant child, eats everything in sight, screams all the time and is just an all-around freaking pain in the ass (I once dated a girl exactly like that...it lasted half a day). I wanted to snap his little neck like a celery stick by frame one. But my biggest peeve was where the flick eventually wound up going for its last block. Taking into account its originality to that point, the “Wishmaster”-like heavy finale kind of let me down. I expected something more novel after everything I went through, something a little "left field" and unconventional for the conclusion.
Having said that, "Malefique" was an overall very fulfilling sit-down and another well-placed jab in the gut for the French horror scene. You want classy, intelligent, well-written and mucho involving? Enter this jail cell and swallow the key...you won’t want to leave!
We get a couple of good red injections via a hand in a chest, cut-off finger, fingers chewed off by a wall, one great bit where a dude is twisted into pieces like a wet rag, some blood and nasty cuts.
Gerard Laroche (Carrerre) gave an intense and hypnotizing show. I loved this man! Phillipe Laudenback (Lasalle) had this stillness and mystery about him that totally involved me in his character. Clovis Cornillac (Marcus) tackled a role that easily could’ve come across as one-dimensional, but he managed to make him feel “real” due to his acting skills and the excellent writing backing him up. Dimitri Rateaud (Paquerette) was amazing as the mucho grating and child-like retard and yes...that IS why I wanted to kill him a lot.
T & A
The ladies get Cornillac’s biceps and us dudes get his fake tits. Nothing to see here, unless that’s your game. Move on, people.
Vallette gave out a mature, low key and well-paced show while displaying strong shot compositions, awesome build up, effective suspense and well used slow motion. Think old school...no MTV jive here!
Eric Sampieri’s simple and eerie score perfectly supported Valette’s gothic imagery. I couldn’t help but get chills every time the piano notes would kick in.
I truly got attached to the folks in "Malefique". That made the dark happenings that went down even more gripping and affecting. Sure, the finale didn’t live up to my hopes, but as whole this is a quality genre film that served up enough smarts, scares and imagination to be highly recommendable. Eric Vallette is definitely a name to follow within the horror graveyard. I hope he stays within it to offer us more sweet flicks like this one. Continue le bon travail, mon ami!
The budget for this flick was 1,000,000 French Francs (you do the math).
I saw this flick via the Fantasia Film Festival 2003. Thanks a lot dudes!