Sur Le Seuil [On The Threshold aka Evil Words] (2003)

(In theaters, October 2003) I’m not much of an impartial audience whenever this film is concerned: I know Patrick Senécal, the author of the novel on which this film is based (he also co-wrote the script along with director Éric Tessier and has a small part in the film), I enjoyed the novel when it first came out in 1998 and as a member of the French-Canadian SF&F “milieu”, I closely followed the whole process leading up to the film’s release. This being said, there’s a lot to like about this, the first true full-length horror movie made in Québec. To its credit, it doesn’t go for the jokey tone that seems to have become the standard for horror nowadays, nor does it try to present a quasi-pornographic spectacle of gore. It’s not only true to the original novel, but it’s a decent movie in of itself; handled with skill by good technicians and decently brought to life by a group of good actors. Some are better than others: Michel Côté is the rock around which the film revolves, and people like Patrick Huard, Jean L’Italien and Albert Millaire all do fantastic jobs with the characters they’re given. The rhythm is steadily engrossing, and the story being told is quite original despite a passing (but coincidental) similarity with John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness. What I didn’t like so much about the film are a few problematic dialogue lines: Either too on-the-nose (“I’m not just a psychologist; I’m also a human being!”) or saddled by inconsistent language registers. That last is probably the film’s most persistent annoyance, especially given how it fades in and out during the film’s duration. I wasn’t much of a fan of the static camera work nor the constant over-saturation of the images, but some of that must be weighed against the ridiculous budget of the film. As for the script, well, non-francophones are unlikely to notice the shifting language registers if they see the film with subtitles. As it is, though, my reaction is one of relief; the film we’ve been waiting so long for is not only here, it’s actually quite good.

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