PLOT: The high-profile case of serial killer Ludovic Chevalier has just gone to trial, and Kelly-Anne is obsessed. When reality blurs with her morbid fantasies, she goes down a dark path to seek the final piece of the puzzle: the missing video of a murdered 13-year-old girl, to whom Kelly-Anne bears a disturbing resemblance.
REVIEW: There’s a certain level of expectation present when Fantasia selects the opening film for their festival. It sets the tone for the rest of the lineup of films so my hopes for Red Rooms were very high. Add to that the fact that the French (even of the Canadian variety) know how to do horror like no other, and I was very excited. Red Rooms hits a nerve almost immediately, diving deep into the trial of serial killer, Ludovic Chevalier. They set up the evidence in such a disturbing way, all without showing you anything. There are some absolutely beautiful long takes during the court scene that really make you feel right in the middle of the trial. They set up the tone of the film perfectly.
The performances from both Juliette Gariépy’s Kelly-Anne and Laurie Babin’s Clementine are phenomenal. Their obsession with Chevalier is intriguing and constantly has you questioning why they would be into something so messed up. As more details are revealed, it makes their obsession even more disturbing. Their interactions just leave you wondering why these two would possibly find themselves in this situation. But it’s not just the two leads that impress, every single person that shows up here is great. Francine Beaulieu plays the grieving mother of one of the victims and gives a powerful speech that chilled me to the bone. And Natalie Tannous’s Maître Chedid – Couronne starts the film off perfectly with her opening statement. I could have just watched her talk about the trial for the entire movie; it was so captivating.
An element of the film I found most intriguing were the various people who were defending Chevalier. Whether it’s the very misguided Clementine, or even his defense lawyer, its uncomfortable to hear people supporting someone who so obviously did the crime. Yet there are people out there like this, so I think its nice to spotlight them. There were a ton of parallels between Clem in particular, as the Manson followers who stood outside his trial. So there’s a bit of catharsis that reveals itself as both Clem and Kelly-Anne are forced to reckon with their feelings as more evidence is unveiled.
Another disturbing element is just how accessible your information is online. Kelly-Anne isn’t doing anything “hacker-level” yet she’s able to get retrieve so much information, all with tools readily accessible to all of us. In fact, all of the dark web stuff being true to life is what makes it all so scary. While this film may be fictional, these types of things are going on and combating them feels like a near impossible task. Red Rooms manages to be very grounded, while dealing with content that can easily be turned unbelievable (see Unfriended: Dark Web).
Red Rooms is an extremely uncomfortable watch but in the day and age of so many people glorifying serial killers, it feels very relevant. And I should state outright that, despite the very disturbing content, there’s not much that’s shown. So don’t go into this expecting some kind of new wave French horror that goes hog wild. This is a much more subtle character piece that relies on its performances and splendid camerawork to really make this standout.
Red Rooms will be on the Festival Circuit this fall.