Sombre (1998)

Being Film #11 in Hail Horror 5.  Thanks to Leaves for the recommendation.

Extra Note:  One week later this movie still sits like a bad meal in my gut, proof (perhaps) that there's more to the film than my experience and consequent write-up get across.  Leaves came back with a lengthy comment that goes into detail why he thinks the film works, and it's a great counterpoint, so I link to it here and heartily recommend checking it out.


SOMBRE, the debut film by experimental artist Philippe Grandrieux, eschews straight narrative, opting instead to provoke visceral reactions in the viewer.  It succeeds in its goal.  Everything is dark and oppressive, even in daylight.  Images are either ramped up or slowed down to such a degree that even the most innocent activity - children being delighted by a puppet show - turns into a Lynchian nightmare.  The story centers on Jean, a serial killer who preys on prostitutes until a chance encounter with two women in a broken down car on the highway provides a new diversion and a chance to consummate the act whose failure seems to drive jean to his murderous acts.  There is the barest hint of fable in this, but its glow is dampened by enough abuse and violence to take any artistic message SOMBRE has and leave it by the film's end abandoned on the side of the road.

Or at least that's my impression.  I knew after about 15 minutes I was going to hate this movie, although part of that reaction could conceivably be Grandrieux's whole point.  Unlike the stylized (though equally brutal) acts of violence perpetrated by Mario Bava or Dario Argento, there's a depravity and bluntness to Jean's sadistic acts that leaves you sick in the stomach.  This feeling is only enhanced with numerous dead scenes of driving on highways, evil looking children, and sickly pale yellow light when there's any to be found.

So, yeah...not a movie I even remotely enjoyed or recommend.  However I'm open to the chance that I'm just not the target audience for this kind of thing (my tastes running more classic Universal, Hammer, and giallo) so in the interest of fairness there's an in-depth review of the film available at d+kaz which really picks the film apart.  I can definitely see all its points, but it doesn't do anything to improve the experience I had with SOMBRE.

That's it.  One more quick review done in pictures, and then a final 13th review for one of the most anticipated horror television series in a long time...