Sunday, September 07, 2014

Discopathe (2013)

As a child, Duane Lewis witnessed the accidental death of his musician father, and he's had an adverse reaction to music ever since. It's now the mid-1970s, and the increasing popularity of disco music ends up pushing Duane over the edge; he spirals out of control, and murders a woman at a discothèque. The story then picks up a few years later in Montreal, where Lewis--under an assumed identity--works as a caretaker at an all-girls Catholic school. In an effort to keep his murderous instincts at bay, he pretends to be deaf so he can wear hearing aids, which he uses to block out the surrounding din. But everything falls apart after he inadvertently hears some dance music, which triggers a killing spree.

Discopathe has been touted as "an electrifying and blood-soaked nod to the golden age of Italian giallo and the films of John Carpenter and Brian De Palma." I'm sorry to report that it's not quite worthy of such lofty acclaim.

Jérémie Earp-Lavergne (Duane) and Katherine Cleland (Valerie)
Throwbacks to 1970s and '80s slasher films are in vogue, so with a title like Discopathe--and the tag line "He Was Made For Loving You"--I thought this would be much of the same. I expected a traditional homage; a black comedy with some elements of horror, or even a horror-thriller played very tongue-in-cheek. Boy, was I wrong. Although the movie opens with great promise, it begins to falter once the location moves to Montreal, when it becomes an outright gore-fest that ultimately works against the story. Unfortunately, there's not enough seedy, disco-infused '70s goofiness to compensate for this and its other failings.

For some reason, the movie begins in New York City, which is initially off-putting because the largely Francophone cast has great difficulty affecting Bronx accents. When the story picks up in Montreal four years later, the dialogue switches completely to French. This renders Duane practically speechless, in part because of his hearing-impaired ruse, and the fact that, as a native New Yorker, he probably can't speak the language anyway. As such, the focus shifts away from him to a handful of new characters, including school officials, the local police force, and a lecherous priest--and, it seems, practically every female in the film has lesbian tendencies (natch).

Duane quickly becomes a background bogeyman, as his interstitial scenes of murder and mayhem coat the screen in buckets of blood. His character arc flatlines; he's now just there to slice and dice, upping the gore as he goes. Showcasing such horrific images isn't proper horror; it's uninspired filmmaking, produced by those who lack the imagination to create actual scares or suspense--so they rely on in-your-face mutilation, produced only to shock. The story would have been much better off had Duane's antics been off-screen, and left to the imagination.

Unfortunately, once Duane is no longer the central character, we're not invested enough in anyone else to care much about them, and the film suffers as a result. Characters come and go, only to serve the plot, and no one really stands out. There's one exception, however: the New York cop who investigated the first murder at the discothèque. He's memorable only because he inexplicably understands French, and even speaks a line or two once he travels to Montreal to team up with the local police force. Sacrebleu!

On a positive note, the art direction, pulsating soundtrack, and deft editing are all excellent. For those looking to purchase the English-language version on DVD, be aware that the French subtitles are burned in, and the font is smaller than usual--so you'll probably have to sit closer to your television and/or computer screen.

Here's the official trailer:

Written and directed by Renaud Gauthier. Canada, 82 minutes. Durango Pictures.

With Jérémie Earp-Lavergne as Duane Lewis, Sandrine Bisson as Francine Léveillée, Ivan Freud as Paul Stephens, Ingrid Falaise as Sister Mireille Gervais, Katherine Cleland as Valerie Lombardo, Mathieu Lepage as Chartrand, François Aubin as Inspecteur Sirois, Pierre Lenoir as Father Antoine, Catherine Antaki as Caroline Valois, Sibylle Gauthier as Mélanie Champagne, Christian Paul as Detective Willis, Chelsea Eaton-Lussier as Monica, and Nancy Blais as Michelle Prud'homme.

** out of *****


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