Synapse // 2006 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // December 23rd, 2010
An eye for an eye; an eyebrow for an eyebrow.
Thomas, Vincent, and Yann agree to attend a cookout with Yann's girlfriend and her two friends. They all hit it off and, after dinner, they decide to head into the city for some clubbing. On the way, their two cars get separated and the guys pull into a gas station to figure out where the girls went. There, a man asks them for a ride into town and, though he seems strange, they let him come along. Big mistake, this guy's a psycho packing heat. If these kids think they've got a fight on their hands now, though, just wait until they discover that their screams of terror have awakened something much more horrific right under their feet.
At face value, there's nothing about Resonnances that distinguishes it from the hordes of zero budget personal horror projects sitting on shelves. Cheap cameras, amateur actors, marginal special effects; ho hum, just throw it on the pile. How easy it would be to dismiss this film that way. Once the story gets going a little bit though, it becomes clear that Resonnances is not your average Z-grade muncher. In fact, this French horror entry from Philippe Robert, for all its clear limitations, is actually quite solid.
Nothing in the film is very original, but Robert uses his budget in inventive ways to effectively and entertainingly tell his story. The special effects, a combination of practical and CG, aren't very realistic, but they work because he never dwells too long on any particular effect. When we look closely, we can see how cheap they are, but that's more scrutiny than a film like this deserves. Of course they're cheap, how would they have paid for better? Robert's camerawork (he wrote, shot, directed, edited, and produced the film) isn't showy, but there's a certain amount of style at work, at least more than in your average micro-budget genre picture. The exterior shots look great. Like Jean Rollin (The Grapes of Death), my favorite obscure French genre director, having the benefit of the spooky French forest and ancient architecture doesn't hurt a bit. As free as those locations may have been, their beauty and atmosphere makes the film seem more expensive than it really is.
The story itself is entertaining but unremarkable. The best attribute of the plot is that there are two of them running simultaneously. Each on its own, whether it's the psycho or the monster, could not sustain a feature-length film. Most directors on this level would just stretch one out and save the other for a second film, but fortunately, Robert knew better. He presents his two half-baked plots simultaneously and, though it doesn't make for one fully cooked dish, it does keep the film from dragging, which may be the very most important thing about a genre film like this. The performances are what you would expect and the characters are about as likeable as what you find in U.S. equivalents, which is to say they're a group of d-bags.
Resonnances comes to us from Synapse in the most bare-bones edition possible. Sadly, the technical details are horrendous, shoving the cheapness of the film straight in viewers' faces. The image is actually advertised as letterboxed (as if that's a selling point), and looks like a bad transfer from a decade ago. If you can work through the digital noise and general murkiness of the picture, you can see that it's actually fairly nicely shot, but you'll often struggle to make out what's going on. The audio performs significantly better, but it still isn't anything special. We get two audio tracks, both in French, one in 5.1 surround and the other in stereo. They are nearly identical, with a little bit of ambient noise in the rear channels of the surround mix that is barely noticeable. Our only extra is a trailer.
I'd love to see what Philippe Robert can do with a real camera and a little more money. His budget forced him to be inventive in his approach and it works; Resonnances is an impressive debut and an entertaining piece of horror.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated