I am writing in a Zen state. Do your worst, internet. I can take it.
“Ils” is a French-Romanian horror movie, filmed in Bucharest and directed by Xavier Palud. It’s on a lot of people’s “Top Ten Lists” for disturbing horror. French directors have really built themselves a reputation over the past decade, and I think that it’s a reputation that is nearly impossible to live up to. That being said, I did not take into account the country of origin when viewing this film.
Do you ever see a trailer for a film and you say “WOW! I have to see that”. But then you forget about it? That’s what happened to me, with this film. I somehow just forgot. Plus, when it first came out, it was hard to find/buy on DVD for me. Something akin to me having to bring a sacrifice and two golden dragon eggs to a back alley, with the secret password to “Jerry the French DVD Headhunter”. I just didn’t want to jump through hoops to see this film.
“Ils” follows Clementine, a school teacher from France teaching in Bucharest. She and her boyfriend Lucas have bought a huge house off the beaten path, in the woods. They seem very happy, and are adjusting to their new environment. That is, until someone starts messing with them in the middle of the night. What seems like someone having a little fun, soon turns deadly.
Let’s check out the good things first. Olivia Bonamay (Clementine) is fantastic in her role. You can really feel the fear that she is feeling throughout the movie. She and Micheal Cohen (Lucas) basically carry the whole movie, as our antagonists never really show themselves until the end. The dialog is well written, and the couple seems like they have known each other for a long time. Both of our leads have a long history of French cinema and television, and the movie has an “A-list” feel.
The cinematography is also very good, and I love the house that they chose for the main setting. In real life, it is so big that they couldn’t even afford to furnish or use the whole house for the movie, according to the movie’s wiki. Like any good horror film, the set/setting has to feel like a character. That is certainly achieved. You get the full effect of being alone, in the woods, away from civilization. The first scene of the film is a real scare. It sets the tone, and shows you just how scary a dark country road can be.
Well, it seems like I am really talking this film up, huh? That is a lot of praise for a film with such a low rating! What are my gripes?
Let me start with a huge one.
What is this “Based on true events” B.S.? What true events? Google all you want, I couldn’t find an actual consensus. No one seems to know what “true events” this film references. By this logic, “Star Wars” could be “based on true events”. The end of the film even tells you the official Police story, in the aftermath of the events. If anyone reading this article can prove me wrong, then please post a link in the comments section to these “actual events”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if a film is a bastardized, over-dramatized version of an event that actually occurred. But just flat-out making stuff up? I feel like it’s cheap.
My other huge gripe, is the terrible choices that our characters make. I expect a horror film to be rife with characters that make some really dumb choices. But this is a whole new level. Especially when the “twist” is revealed. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to give away any plot details. But by the end, I felt like our characters got everything they deserve. Because they are dumb. I do a lot of screaming at the television as it is ( have you watched TV lately?) and I would rather spend my movie viewing time enjoying a film. Not yelling at the characters because they are idiots. Characters that could have been played by giant gerbils by the second half of the movie. Run and panic, repeat.
So I am completely unapologetic to all of the people that have this one on their “Top Ten” lists. I don’t see how this sits among the ranks of “Livide”, ”Inside”, “Martyrs”, “Frontieres” or “High Tension”. I am at a loss. Once the “twist” is revealed, this film becomes just ridiculous. I understand the suspension of disbelief, but I can only go so far.