It’s easy to see why Synapse Films picked up this unheard-of French DV film for a home video release: writer / director Philippe Robert’s feature film debut is a fun amalgam of contemporary horror with Roger Corman sensibilities, and not too many tongue-in-cheek riffing to feel like a genre pastiche.
Robert’s plot is very simple: a group of bickering friends trek to a dinner BBQ – men segregated in one car, women in the next – and the men’s inbred stupidity (which has thus far included the over-purchasing of BBQ briquettes in place of food) also yields a run on gasoline.
Stranded, the group makes it to a service station in an isolated mountain community, where they encounter a stranger in need of a ride to the next town. Back en route, they pass a ghostly figure that may or may not be a warning to turn back. Driver inattention causes a sudden swerve, and the VW beetle goes off a cliff, lands on a rocky outcrop, and eventually crashes in a thickly forested valley.
That’s where the film kicks into gear, as the stranger from the station is (unsurprisingly) a wanted psycho with a gun, and the quartet find themselves bickering on where to go and what to do, while there’s a sense some creature is lurking under the ground, ready to pick them off.
Resonnances is a variation on Tremors (1990) insofar as there’s a creature devouring humans and expunging their remains in a local cave, and whomever is left alive must struggle to reach civilization before they’re eaten. However, the ghostly figure on the highway – actually the spirit of a girl attacked in the film’s Medieval era prologue – is confusing, as well as the reason the tentacled bug creature has created a car graveyard in the valley. (Does the ghost actually scare and cause road mishaps to feed the creature below? Was the ghost actually warning drivers with its limited supply of ectoplasm?) The finale also includes a faux twist moment that doesn’t explain what or why the creature is on Earth.
Those are the head-scratching problems with Robert’s film, but his script is surprisingly funny (the English translations actually omit a lot of F-bombs, but the translators substituted decent North American insults), the performances are quite good, and stupid people are generally rewarded with a deserved violent death.
Robert’s tone, however, isn’t to create a gore picture, but a Corman B-movie with characters constantly on the move, a persistent monster, and decent production values for what’s ostensibly a no-budget film. His background in visuals (camera operator on Les Danton, effects and second unit work on Asterix at the Olympic Games) ensures fairly clean compositions and montages.
There's also an effective combination of old-style miniature and model effects digitally grafted onto footage that’s cheesy, yet convincing, plus Richard Sanderson's score gives the drama strong gravitas with strong orchestral emulations. The CGI creature and some eerie architecture (such as the terrifying water tower) are also affecting, and the attack sequences are minor no-budget miracles, considering the final output is grainy DV video.
Resonnances is a decent calling card for its director, but it is surprising Robert hasn’t made another film since 2005 (after premiering his debut at Canada’s 2006 Fantasia Film Festival, he just vanished), unless his brand of cheeky horror was stymied by France’s recent preoccupation with vicious torture porn.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan