Director: Pascal Plante
Starring: Juliette Gariépy, Laurie Babin, Elisabeth Locas, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Natalie Tannous, Pierre Chagnon
Opening the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival with Pascal Plante’s Red Rooms (La Chambres Rouge) is certainly a bold choice. It’s a weighty choice too. The film's narrative deals with a serial killer, courtroom drama, child abuse and murder, the dark web, and a character study on a dangerously obsessed and perverse mind. A real crowd pleaser then.
The case against serial killer Ludovic Chevalier has begun and the courtroom is filled with family members and curious spectators as they wait to eventually discover whether the accused is guilty of kidnapping, raping, torturing, murdering, and dismembering three teenage girls in his red room. Among the crowd is Kelly-Anne (Gariépy), a seemingly unassuming woman who plays poker and models for a living. Why she is there is part of the mystery, but as we find out more about her, the lines of morality and decency begin to blur very quickly.
"Red Rooms is, at its core, a psychological thriller and a character study of the obsessive, perverse, and most dangerous members of society - and it's a damn good one as well."
Her aim is to seek out the one murder video that the police have not obtained, her reason for wanting the tape? Well, we’re not dealing with spoilers here but in order to get it, Kelly-Anne must travel down the darkest of paths alongside society’s worst inhabitants.
Red Rooms is, at its core, a psychological thriller and a character study of the obsessive, perverse, and most dangerous members of society - and it's a damn good one as well. To really capture the tone and dread-filled atmosphere, Plante utilises Fincher-esque techniques to really draw every emotion from each frame - scenes of Kelly-Anne in her contemporary apartment browsing the dark recesses of the web are shot in long slow takes using low light accompanied by fantastic facial framing and use of reflections, it’s abundantly clear that Plante is adept at setting the mood. On the flip side, the brightly lit, clinical setting of the courtroom somehow manages to feel scarier almost. Again, long takes are permeated with details of the case and the human aspect really shines through in a way that feels suffocating.
As Kelly-Anne, Juliette Gariépy is simply sensational. She is able to build the character on minimal dialogue and excellent facial and posture acting, while being someone we as an audience cannot root for. Throughout, the character remains a secret to us, her motivations are not entirely explained (deliberately) and this only adds to the unease. For example, why does she sleep outside the courtroom to ensure she makes it in every day? She clearly craves attention and will stop at nothing to receive it - though not in a theatrical, showy way, but instead in ways that are simply depraved, including one particular sequence involving Kelly-Anne dressed up in a courtroom that is genuinely shocking. All of this comes after the fact that she is seemingly poised as our protagonist from the get-go…(or maybe she is all along?) The journey is what matters overall in Red Rooms. Yes, we want to see the alleged serial killer gets his comeuppance, but that becomes the secondary focus to what is happening with Kelly-Anne, and the film is stronger for it.
Aside from the strong technical work, Red Rooms also boasts a great score from Dominique Plante. Great films have great scores and Red Rooms is no different, Plante’s melodic yet sinister score lingers across the film, bookended by a fabulously captivating composition that sets the table before clearing it at the end.
Red Rooms takes a heavy subject and does not shy away from the details. Whilst we do not see the murder videos, we hear about them. They are dangled in front of us, almost as if to tempt some hidden desire to see such horrifying sights, daring us to want to participate. Even without seeing the videos, there is enough genuinely haunting and baffling imagery here to ensure that the film will linger long after the viewing is complete. Red Rooms is taut, tense, shocking, dripping with dread, and, most importantly, it’s very, very good.
July 21st 2023