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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 05.20.16] France horror thriller drama

I really like when a movie poses as something that it isn't, usually the reactions towards it depend on whether you believed the label or not. Take this one, as a supernatural horror it is a huge disappointment, well worthy of the ire it generated. As a tongue-in-cheek drama (dramedy?) it is way more palatable. Far from being a must-see mind you, but decidedly entertaining.

The pitch used in the promotion materials is about a medium working as a gopher for some B-list celebrity waiting for a message from the afterlife from her departed twin brother. And it's no surprise anyone sold by it was disappointed in the final product.

Throughout the course of it we see her witness poltergeists and get stalked by something via her phone, all that while shopping at your run-of-the-mill luxury shops (as if Cartier and Louboutin were more than standard household brands...) and complaining about it. Of course if you did believe in the pitch you'll have a hard time finding any of it convincing. A ghost using iMessage? Scary LOUD NOISES? Please, we are in 2016 not 1982.

Now let's take the Cartesian scenic route, all that tripe about the afterlife being just tripe our starting point.

The main character lost her twin brother a year ago and is still mourning and waiting on some child promise about sending a message from the other side. She's obsessed enough to put her own life on hold. If you check your bedside copy of the DSM-IV-TR or 5 for "grief induced delirium" you will find most of what happens to her as symptoms. And now all the mangy bits of narration are put into another perspective and you can enjoy a rather decent study of the case.

A broad being chased by a random spook is so yesterday, but her being so far advanced in her psychosis she's mistaking a real life stalker for her own chimeras is infinitely more interesting and, intentionally or not, hilariously entertaining. The nice touch in this approach is that, since she's always speaking to people via phone/skype/imessage without their corporeal presence on screen, in a way she indeed is a medium. I wish I'd see that kind of puns more often.

Now that doesn't mean that the movie is without flaws: the photography makes it look like a German police procedural of the eighties, up to a point that Horst Tapper could have made a cameo without me batting an eye. The fact that the director is basically playing Polly-Pocket with his main actress is boring. We get it you find her cute, but having her character wank herself to sleep in black tulle is going overboard. As it is wont today a good chunk of the dialogue is made on a telephone screen while the actress makes faces at it and I will never condone the laziness of that kind of thing.

But the biggest disappointment is in the whole whodunit story arc. This is the kind of plot device you use when you have a lot more characters and you can shuffle them around to confuse the audience. The only way it could work here is if the audience actually bought the misleading pitch and managed to keep its suspension of disbelief high enough at that point to plaster some artificial ambiguity to the unraveling events.

All this makes for an uneven yet still rather enjoyable experience if you manage to forget the sloppy execution in favor of the few nice ideas laying around.

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