Dissecting Writer/Director Gregory Levasseur!

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

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WRITER/DIRECTOR GREGORY LEVASSEUR!

Not sure if I'm alone here, but the one wintertime horror chiller that looks like it has a chance of surprising some people is THE PYRAMID, open for public touring in the U.S. on December 5th. The flick marks the directorial debut of Gregory Levasseur, who for the last decade or so has served as Alexandre Aja's longtime writing partner. Since co-scripting the searing breakout psychological-slasher flick HAUTE TENSION in 2003 (and even FURIA and BREAK OF DAWN before that), Levasseur has gone on to collaborate with Aja on everything from THE HILLS HAVE EYES and MIRRORS (with Aja directing) to P2, PIRANHA 3D (as AD), MANIAC and even the little known short film called THE ESSEKER FILE (with Aja co-writing). Now, Gregory is set to climb THE PYRAMID, but before he does so, allow us to give you an idea of what to expect with his new movie by lensing a glimpse at his past. You into it? Good! Scroll that shite below to witness the messy, gore-sodden Dissection of one Gregory Levasseur!

BEST WORK

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No question, HAUTE TENSION remains Levasseur's most memorably effective flick (and Aja's for that matter). Seriously, that wallop-packing third-act reveal is right up there with shite like THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE CRYING GAME and SLEEPAWAY CAMP. F*cking blindsiding! Breathtaking. Gut-punching. And as much as we can credit the direction and performances for the selling of said revelation, it really starts on the page. Upon second viewing, you can actually notice subtle clues and subliminal hints to the true nature of the lead character, which is a real testament to Levasseur's deft writing ability, and to carefully plot an unforeseen story-turn that the entire movie largely hinges on. And doing so without giving too much away, being overly-obvious, yet at the same time, doing enough that it doesn't feel completely unwarranted or inorganic to the nature of the story. Look, the hardest thing for a writer to do is stay one step ahead of the audience, especially in this day and age where the viewers are far more sophisticated than ever before. By now we're all trained to keep a watchful eye on the twists and turns of a movie, or to be wary of an unreliable narrator. So to tow the line of ambiguity so wonderfully until the time comes to actually unveil the character's truth…I believe it's the single greatest reason why HAUTE TENSION continues to shock new audiences, and sate repeat-viewers alike, all these years later.

What also really stands out about HAUTE TENSION is just how gnarly the NC-17 violence is. I mean, you couldn't get away with that kind of graphic carnage onscreen here in a U.S. studio, hell no, that sucker would be castrated quick-style and slapped with an R-rating at best, PG-13 at worst. But more than that, with the high praise and international acclaim garnered from HAUTE TENSION in '03, the success really sparked a renaissance of sorts in the French horror genre, paving the way for such hardcore subsequent fare like THEM, INSIDE, FRONTIERS, MARTYRS, etc. And on a smaller, more personal note, HAUTE TENSION is the flick that really rocket-launched Aja and Levasseur's career in Hollywood, virtually landing high-profile horror remake gigs (HILLS HAVE EYES, MIRRORS, PIRANHA) based solely on the strength of HAUTE TENSION.

WORST WORK

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For all its technical achievements – the painstaking reflective surfaces and tightly choreographed lighting schemes to realize such – MIRRORS as a whole is a pretty tainted if not hollow piece of furniture. In fact, I recall MIRRORS (a poor reflection of the FAR better South Korean original INTO THE MIRROR) being one of the very first movies I was hired to review. And given Aja and Levasseur's prior work coming off of HAUTE TENSION and the gorily apt redo of Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES (not to mention the OG), I can still recall how thoroughly disappointed I was in what essentially amounts to an aptly-titled-technical-vanity-project. And as the flick progressed, its plot became sillier and sillier until all believability was shattered like the many shards of glass the flick itself displayed. And with Paula Patton's fine ass and a mid-Jack Bauer Kiefer at the helm…yeah, there's really no excuse!

TRADEMARKS

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Aside from the allegiance of Frenchman he's continued to forge a career with (Aja, Khalfoun), I'd say the single most consistent recurrence in Levasseur's work is that of a deeply disturbed main character. The protagonists in Greg's flicks are usually antagonized by their selves, as we've seen psychologically in movies like HAUTE TENSION and MANIAC. These movies force us to identify with a profoundly unhinged character, and through the course of the film, either grow with or repel away from the increasingly deplorable action of said main character. Same goes with MIRRORS, with the lead character's debilitating alcoholism catalyzing the psychosis he battles throughout the film. You see, Levasseur and company are very adept at putting the audience in the tormented headspace of his emotionally wracked lead characters, which only makes the terror that much more effective when it finally comes crashing down. In some ways we don't even like the character necessarily, but by identifying with them through a series of harrowing thrills and chills, a natural empathy is born. It's a delicate balancing act!

Additionally, there's the continuous trend of remaking horror classics. After the resounding splash HAUTE TENSION made in its originality, Levasseur has been more or less resigned to retooling old horror flicks for new audiences.  It started with THE HILLS HAVE EYES in 2006, and has continued in some form or fashion in subsequent redos of MIRRORS, PIRANHA and MANIAC.  Let's hope that, if for no other reason, THE PYRAMID (not a remake) does well enough that Greg continues to craft original horror instead of retreading old favorites. 

HIDDEN GEM

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Well, since we're about to dive headlong into the holiday season, I think it's only apt to highlight what I believe is an ornately wrapped-up gift in Levasseur's filmography. That's right y'all, I'm talking about the 2007 parking-lot set, Christmastime slasher joint P2, starring Wes Bently and Rachel Nichols. Now, I've seen a lot of people disparage this flick, castigating it as one-note if not irredeemably misogynistic, though unjustly in my opinion. For what it is, a single-set cat-and-mouse thriller, I enjoyed P2 a great fucking deal. It's simple, but effective…exactly how a horror film should be. For those in the know not, consider the plot:

The story centers on a corporate climber who gets stuck working late on Christmas Eve and finds herself the target of an unhinged security guard. With no help in sight, the woman must overcome physical and psychological challenges to survive.

Directed by Franck Khalfoun, who would go on to repeat such a collaboration with Gregory on MANIAC (too a bit underrated), to me P2 has always felt like a classic 80s style slasher joint, the kind we're just not used to seeing anymore. We have the damsel in distress who rises to heroine, and an unhinged madman we come to know a bit, sympathize with at first, then utterly detest once driven into a psychotically violent outburst. Also, I've always been partial to flicks that take place in a single day, so here we have a real-time scenario that plays out over the course of one night, with inherent suspense and tension mounting until the brutal climactic eruption. I don't know, I've just always dug this flick. I mean, Wes Bently maniacally lip-syncing to Elvis' Blue Christmas? Yeah, too damn good!

NEXT PROJECT

The previously mentioned next project for Greg, THE PYRAMID, is quite a large transitional one for the young French filmmaker. You see, THE PYRAMID marks the very first directing gig for Levasseur, which must be a big jump from merely writing all these years (however, he did serve as First Assistant Director for Aja on BREAK OF DAWN, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, MIRRORS and PIRANHA 3D). Interestingly, Greg is not credited for writing the script for THE PYRAMID, which instead goes to Daniel Meersand and Nick Simon. My guess is Levassuer tweaked and fine-tuned the script to his liking though before embarking on what was surely a rigorous shoot (at night, ostensibly underground at times). Let's hope he's gleaned enough directorial finesse from pal Alexandre.

As for the plotline of THE PYRAMID, peep it:

A team of U.S. archaeologists unearths an ancient pyramid buried deep beneath the Egyptian desert. As they search the pyramid's depths, they become hopelessly lost in its dark and endless catacombs. Searching for a way out, they become desperate to seek daylight again. They come to realize they aren't just trapped, they are being hunted.

Sounds like CATACOMBS meets THE DESCENT, which, if more like the latter than former, could end up being pretty damn badass. It would be on the premise alone, so when you consider an ensemble that's headed by Denis O'Hare and Ashley Winshaw, we should be in good performative hands. Also, the fact the flick is dropping in December and not say, early January or February, makes me think the flick is actually better than most throwaway end of year genre joints. Toss in the brutal-ass trailer and I certainly have faith in THE PYRAMID, do you as well?!?

OVERALL

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Without a doubt, the time has come for one Gregory Levasseur to step out from the shadows and really shine as his own independent filmmaking entity. After spending a good decade behind the scenes, more or less serving as Alexandre Aja's right-hand man – co-writer, first AD, co-producer, etc. – Greg is now poised to further carve a niche and name for himself as a bona fide horror film director. THE PYRAMID marks the first such exhibit in his new endeavor, which I for one cannot wait to see. Given all the osmotic knowledge he's sure to have amassed on flicks like FURIA, BREAK OF DAWN, HAUTE TENSION, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, P2, MIRRORS, PIRANHA 3D and MANIAC – THE PYRAMID is sure to have the kind of dire decay and unremitting gruesomeness those prior flicks all displayed..in excess. Be sure to peruse THE PYRAMID when it opens for business December 5th!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

5379 Articles Published

Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.