Film review by: Witney Seibold
Philippe Robert’s “Resonnances,” a 2006 feature film from France, was released on DVD from Synapse films a few months back (and it was only my sloth and seemingly endless capacity for dawdling that prevented me from writing about it until just now), and it caused a minor uproar in the online horror community, as it was reputed to be a perfectly decent little thriller that managed to be tense and creative, despite its shoestring budget, and relatively low profile. I have watched the film, and I can finally attest to its quality. For a film that clearly had little money, it did manage to have some really nice practical special effects, and some decent kills. Though, this is not one of those low-budget horror films that uses its limited resources to its advantage (something like “The Blair Witch Project” springs to mind). Also, like many a low-budget horror film, despite its pedigree or vintage, it’s still not very cogent, the characters aren’t very interesting, and the acting is bad. Those things, however, are not necessarily sought after in many genre films, so, if you’re not too picky, “Resonnances” (which can pretty much translate as “Tremors” for our purposes) may strike you in the right way, and prove to be a perfectly entertaining flick.
The dramatis-personae-cum-monster-fodder is a quintet of twentysomething hipsters, all played by non-professionals, who are each defined by the basest of character traits. One guy is obsessed with sports, for instance. Another is the only one with a girlfriend. Most notably, there’s a nerdy type (Vincent Lecompte) who is obsessed with video games, and who is, I presume, meant to be the hero, even though he’s as shallow and as venal as his peers. He plays “Centipede” on his Game Boy, even when he’s lost in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, and there’s a monster after him.
After a confounding opening scene, in which we see a monster kill a girl back in the 17th century French countryside, we cut to our heroes. This film has a three-pronged story, so pay attention. Our heroes are all gearing up for a party. Their dialogue is borderline insufferable, and largely disposable. “Resonnances,” does, however, spend a good 20 minutes of screentime setting up these people. I appreciate the effort, even if the result wasn’t stellar. Three of the boys pile into a VW Beetle, and trek out into the night. I don’t precisely recall where they were going, only that they were chagrined that the nerd character didn’t want to flirt with the nerd girl at that party back there, and *tee hee* isn’t he a dweeb?
Three prongs: 1) There’s some talk of an ancient ghost who used to haunt this road, and sometimes even appears to motorists to this very day. 2) A radio report informs us that there is a serial killer on the loose in the area. 3) Thanks to the film’s intro, we know that there’s an ancient alien carnivorous subterranean squid lurking in the woods below. Ghost. Killer. Squid.
Sure enough, they stop at a service station and pick up a dandyish hitchhiker who is, of course, the serial killer on the loose (we see the owner of the service station hanging upside-down with his head in a bucket). Soon thereafter, they see the ghost, and accidentally drive off the road. They fall into the woods below where the underground squid begins to pick them off one at a time. I did like that, though the film used some rudimentary CGI for many of its effects, it was equally good about sticking to the better-looking practical effects that so strongly marked the better B films of my adolescence. The scene in which the VW Beetle plummets off of a cliff looks like they actually dangled a real car off of a real cliff. What’s more, when the underground monster burrows angrily toward our heroes (looking uncannily like Bugs Bunny when he burrows), director Robert thought to use actual miniatures, and it looks really cool (despite the comparison I just made to Bugs Bunny).
At this point, comparisons to Ron Underwood’s 1990 monster flick “Tremors” are inevitable. The monster is essentially the same as in that film, as it can burrow quickly, can only sense its prey by listening to vibrations through the ground, and tends to snatch its victims with tentacles that pop up out of the ground like whack-a-moles. It’s not as graceful as “Tremors,” nor as fun, sadly. But it does, at least, play by the same rules, and forces the characters to stay quiet and stay off the ground at inopportune moments.
At this point in the film, the serial killer starts acting up, flirts with another male in the party (making for some largely inappropriate gay panic jokes), and the weapons and accusations begin to fly. Some of the female characters also begin appearing in the woods (it’s never really made clear how they got there, although it’s implied that they saw the same ghost the boys did), but since the women are so indistinguishable in this film, I have to admit I lost track of who was alive and who was getting shot through the head.
There are no twists to speak of, and the film progresses how you would expect.
So “Resonnances” is not very original and not very dramatic and, on the whole, not a great film. But there is something to be said for its devotion to its monstery premise, its international pedigree, and its refusal to do the cutesy, self-referential thing. I have seen too many straight-to-video horror films that are all too convinced of their cleverness and “humor.” “Resonnances,” at the very least, makes no pretenses to be anything but an exciting, legitimate B film. And, in that regard, it is.