Come on in, the water's crazy...
Dir. Jacques Vendome, France
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today we're taking the plunge and making our first swim across the Channel to wash up on French shores. It actually surprised to me to see this is the first French movie we've covered in the series – after all, it's a nation probably only second to Germany when it comes to extreme European cinema. Indeed, there's a host of films we'll be coming to in due course – including Martyrs, Irreversible and Inside – that give France an enviable reputation for some of the best and most brutal horror and thrillers of recent years.
Which leads us to Frustre, a recent offering from Jacques Vendome and following the story of Fabrice Lombard, a factory worker and truly one of society's loners. This is a man with no friends, no prospects and a plastic sex doll instead of a partner waiting for him at home. And from this bad beginning, life continues to simply get worse and worse for Fabrice – beaten down by society, ridiculed and shunned – until he finally descends to committing acts of brutal murder and rape.
There it is in a nutshell really, and in a sense it's hard to say a heap more about it. The depiction of Fabrice by Chrstophe Cerdan is pretty good, and he lapses from furious rage to quiet calm in a way that is believable – it's always the quiet ones, as the movie itself states at one point. But there are a few things that – for me at least – hold this one back from achieving the same level as some of its Gallic contemporaries.
Firstly, and while I can't say I'm any kind of expert in cameras or filming equipment, the whole movie does somehow look cheap in the way it it shot and presented. I absolutely appreciate the difficulties directors often have in producing films on low budgets, but when you look back at what Phil Stevens did with Flowers or Eric Falardeau offered up with Thanatomorphose – both of which looked impeccable despite shoestring budgets – it's not an excuse that really flies. Secondly, I have to add that the soundtrack – also provided by director Jacques Vendome – is simply awful, and there were a host of times where I genuinely felt the music was an impediment to my enjoyment. It was rather a first for me as a sensation.
So, on the whole, I'd describe Frustre as a serviceable depiction of a descent into madness. If you're someone who loves movies that try to climb into the mind of serial killers, then it might just be worth you checking this out. However there are a fair few films of its ilk I'd recommend viewing before you get to this one.
RATING: 5.5/10. I've always tried to avoid using this word so far, but the best summary I can come up with is 'average'. Some fair performances are rather limited by filming and soundtrack, and the ending simply doesn't hit the mark either. Our lead Fabrice is a potentially dark and interesting character, but we never really get a great depth of insight or backstory to really get stuck into. And I suppose that's the overall analogy I'll use – it's not bad on the surface, but there's just not enough substance to this movie to really elevate it. It lacks the crunching impact of something like Maniac, misses the artistic quality of Schramm, and nor does it ever achieve the grim humour of The Voices. From a country that so often serves up masterclasses of extreme, unfortunately Frustre never threatens to reach that level, so overall it's 5.5/10.