Back to France for some creepy movie goodness this week as I take a look at 2010’s French Horror/ Suspense film “Le Village des Ombres” aka “The Village of Shadows”. Oh yes…. more haunted curses and ghostly goings on for your Favorite Catgirl Princess. Yep…. just love those ghost stories, I do…..
The synopsis for this one goes like follows: “Emma, her sister, and her 7 friends are heading to the village of Ruiflec for a weekend getaway. Unknown to them, Ruiflec is a nearly forgotten village with a dark history. Traveling separately in two cars they soon arrive but then all the passengers of the first vehicle mysteriously disappear without a trace or any explanation at the village entrance. The others soon discover that Ruiflec is totally empty, all means of communication are dead and now…. for them…. there is no way out. Frantically searching for their lost friends, they must now fight an unknown terror to stay alive and get out of Ruiflec before they too begin to disappear, one by one… in the Village of Shadows.”
Now this one sounded promising. I missed the usual promotional Trailers and news on it until just stumbling across the DVD during one of my searches of Euro-horror films at Amazon. One viewing of the Trailer later, and I was pretty much convinced I needed to give it a try. Want to know it it might be something you need to see as well? Then by all means, “Read On” and let a certain goofy movie loving Catgirl Princess tell you all about it!!
To begin… our film starts off in a flashback sequence to 1944 and guess who’s made the silly mistake of coming to the cursed village of Ruiflec? Why our old genre movie friends, those naughty Nazis….. and it doesn’t take long for us to see that despite all their heavily armed military might, the last two still end up barricaded in an attic room at the mercy of some unknown force…. something so terrible that no amount of bullets or bravado will save them from it. Something that won’t even let them escape from it through suicide….
Then we jump forward to the present, where we get a quick introduction to our film’s little group of victims… errrrr, I mean students… as they chat, joke, and even whine & bitch amongst themselves during the boring car ride to a weekend getaway at one of their members home village, scenic, isolated Ruiflec. Ummmm….Yeah….. that’s not suspicious straight from the get go, right? But we’ll get back to that…..
It doesn’t take long to figure out who our main character is…. Emma Valeyre (played by Christa Theret) but don’t expect to get to know her… or anybody else in the cast for that matter. There is interaction between the various characters throughout the film, but despite this, they never quite come across to a viewer as a “group”…. feeling more like random acquaintances thrown together by chance. That vibe just stuck with me throughout the film, and for the life of me, I’ve never seen a group of “friends” who seemed so unaware of the character and personal details of people supposedly close to them. Such as the little detail of one of them having been born here in the centuries old cursed village….. Apparently never came up in conversation… Yeah, right….
About the only people who do seem to know one another are hunky David (played by Cyrille Thouvenin) and his Spanish girlfriend Lila (played by Bárbara Goenaga)… those two seem closer even than Emma and her older sister Marion (played by Ornella Boulé). Mind you… there actually seems to be some reason for the frosty relationship between the sisters, but that exact reason is only hinted at at nearly the end of our film, and I can’t really tell you about it without revealing a major spoiler for the plot. Darn it….
Anyway…. given that we have quite the large cast, it’s not surprising that our lil’ road trip is being done with not one, but two cars…. and given the cryptic nature of the Valeyre sisters relationship, naturally the two estranged siblings are riding in different vehicles. Yep… you can probably figure out what’s going to happen next. One of the carloads of people gets tired of playing at being the tail end of the donkey and races on ahead, only to almost instantly disappear from sight…. awwww crap. Seconds later it’s sudden reappearance nearly causes an accident right at the entrance to our lil’ haunted village. Convenient, eh?
Nobody is inside of course…. Not only that, but even though it was out of sight for mere moments, it looks like it’s been abandoned for hours. Oh, yeah…. our freaky village has certain… how shall we say… very loose interpretations of the proper passage of time. So now our story becomes all about our survivors trying to find some trace of their missing friends while exploring the deserted village. All while being added to the list of the missing…. one by one.
Here the movie is the most interesting. Our cast is pretty much disposable, I’m sad to say, but the atmosphere of the village of Ruiflec is truly something. Dark…. creepy… ominous… all done without any of the freakishly overdone trappings of say, “Silent Hill”. Nope. This is a quiet horror, that works best when it’s felt as a sense of dread that nags at the viewer until the curse decides to strike and eliminate yet another victim.
So what the heck is going on? Well… the village is cursed, and every 8 years it needs 8 more victims to sustain the existence of an evil spirit created by the sacrifice of a young boy waaaaay back around the time of the French Revolution. So… how many people were in our little group? Why 9 of course, meaning that somebody in the group is working for the “Forces of Evil”. Crap. That’s gonna make life miserable… and it’s gonna tear apart what little party unity is on display.
Suffice it to say, that by the time the end rolls around, that curse gets more fully explained, (although never as convincingly as it might) and we get down to a pretty short list of survivors. Or… is that “survivor”? Neko’s not going to tell you…. 🙂
So how did this one stack up for me? Director Fouad Benhammou has an interesting idea to work with here, and he’s certainly got an understanding of setting, mood, and pacing, but not all of it works as well as it might. Add to that the fairly sparsely developed and nearly non-existent character motivation, back-story, and overall chemistry together and you end up with a film that tantalizes a viewer with it’s look and feel but lacks any real fizz to set it apart from other films in the genre. Another one of those I can say is interesting, just not the overall success one could have hoped for. Neko gives “Le Village des Ombres” a middle-of-the-road 3 “Meows” out of 5. Not a bad film… but one that definitely could have been better. That’s really a shame, because I do feel it definitely is a film worth a look… as long as you don’t have to spend too much time looking for a copy or pay too much for that DVD. The French Region 2 is sufficient for this one, done in wide-screen with good accurate English subtitles, but imports out of France can be pricey. I’ve heard rumors of a Canadian DVD, but can’t confirm it’s existence. For most people… that probably means being a bit patient till a version pops up in your own Region at a more budget friendly price.
So… is there a Trailer? Of course…. and here it goes! Enjoy!