Review time once again.. and this time it’s off to the deserts of North Africa for some vintage style military flavored horror with the French 2010 film, “Djinns” aka “Stranded” for those of you who may catch this one on a DVD release somewhere in an English speaking part of the world. 😉
The synopsis for this one reads:“It’s 1960 somewhere in the deserts of Algeria. A unit of French Foreign Legion paratroops are sent on a rescue mission in search of a missing aircraft. But… they are not alone. Under threat of constant attack by Algerian rebels, no one anticipates that another, more deadly menace lies silently in wait. A violent sand storm forces the troops to take refuge in an uncharted village deep in the desert. Taking its inhabitants and the rebels hostage, little do they know that the village is governed by a force far more powerful than any of them can imagine and their invasion has violated their territory. Ignoring warnings to leave, as day turns to night, that evil spirit force rises and as their ranks are decimated one-by-one, they face the longest night of their lives.”
Army guys battling the supernatural. Yep Neko’s been down this road before, and by goodness there’s little chance I’d miss out on a chance of doing it again. Think the army guys with all their impressive firepower will beat the creepy ghosts this time out? Probably not… but hey, it’s never stopped them from trying before so who is this lil’ Catgirl to bicker over the chance to sit back on the couch and watch the fun? Yep… just pop the popcorn, chill the wine coolers and let’s all take a look, shall we? 😉
If you’ve spent anytime at all visiting me here and reading my silly ramblings, then you know Military horror seems to be a recurring theme here at the ol’ Litterbox. If it’s a movie filled with heavily armed and dangerous army men getting too darn close to those “things man was not meant to know”, then this wee lady has probably seen it. I just love the goofy cartoon levels of silly violence as those poor buggers try their darnedest to survive… and almost never do. It just seems to be the way it works in these stories… So anyways, as those sorts of films come out, I always snap them up as quick as I can for some fun “movie night” enjoyment. Once in a while, though, one will slip by me as this one almost did. Luckily for me… we live really close to our neighbor to the north, Canada, and it’s pretty common for DVD’s out of French speaking Quebec to turn up in the bargain bins of our local stores. Thankfully too, I’ve a devoted girlfriend always on the lookout for crazy sounding foreign horror films to share with me when shopping for household necessities, which always is a welcome thing. (Along with her getting a big loving hug in return for her terribly sweet efforts… ) Yep… once again Carolyn scores a surprising find and reminds me why she’s my one and only… Sigh… 😉
So what’s this one about then? Ahhhh… let’s see. It’s the 1960’s, and France is struggling with the disintegration of it’s colonial empire in the aftermath of WW2. In North Africa, French Algeria is in revolt and the Foreign Legion is engaged in counter insurgency operations in the vast lonely deserts, striking with deadly viciousness against the rebels as part of that last doomed gasp of Empire. All that political stuff aside, this story is more about the fragile ties that bind a unit of men together while they struggle against an opponent also equally determined to prevail at the bloody business of war at any and all costs. In the middle of this chaos, a military transport plane crashes with a metal briefcase on board… one that authorities decide must never fall into enemy hands. So… a small group of veteran paratroops are tasked with the mission of finding that plane wreck deep in rebel held territory, recovering the secret briefcase and returning to it to base. Accompanying them is our film’s main hero, Michel (played by Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) a rookie soldier replacement way out of his league amongst the other grizzled jaded veterans of the squad. He’s just too naive… too darn nice… to fit in really well with these cold blooded killers and that’s pretty evident from the start. But somehow you just know that it’s that very naivete that will save him once things start getting weird and the rest of those rough though guys start coming apart at the seams.
Our little squad finds the plane easily enough, just in time to run afoul of a wandering squad of rebels whom they trace back to a mysterious unmapped village in the wastes. Pissed off and more than a wee bit bigoted to begin with, it isn’t long before they start brutalizing the villagers in an effort to root out the rebels. Eventually that macho posturing ends with the murder of a local woman, shot by one of the trigger-happy legionaries accidentally. Awwww crap. You just know that ain’t gonna help things once the monsters show up.
Despite this war crime, our hero Michel manages to stumble over the rebels by total accident and capture them… all without firing a shot. With them in custody, things ought to calm down, right? Nawwww… just not that kind of movie. 😉
When they do… and it isn’t long before that happens… Michel seems to be the only one among the soldiers who can perceive the Djinn… sneaking around, their semi-transparent forms hidden in the dusty winds that blow through the old ruins upon which the village is built. But the others can feel them…. as their minds are assaulted by hallucinations and images that trick them into turning on one another as things go from bad to worse.The local witch woman knows all about things of course… and she tells Michel he’s destined to become the next “Guardian” here watching over the villagers despite he reluctance to believe in it all. Our plot reminds me quite a bit of “El Paramo”… that Colombian horror film I reviewed a while back. Like in that film… our army guys end up killing each other or themselves rather than ever fight the supernatural menace that threatens them. The theme works well here… as it did in that other film… but ended up feeling a bit unsatisfying when what I really wanted was to see army guys shooting the crap out of sneaky desert spirits.
Eventually, even though they band together with the rebels to face the invisible menace of the desert djinns, the squad all dies… except for Michel, who does mange to return to base with that cryptic briefcase only to have his story dismissed as the ravings of a rookie soldier pushed too far physically and mentally in the face of combat. Like there was any chance they’d think otherwise….
So… what’s the big secret in the briefcase? Don’t worry, they let you know. It’s an actual historical event, too, but one that ends up being not all that germain to the plot of our story at hand. Heck I’m not even sure why they thought having the information fall into rebel hands was all that big a threat given what it turns out to be. It’s not like a loose bunch of insurgent fighters could have done anything useful with it once we find out what it’s all about. Wanna know what it is? Well this wee Catgirl’s not spilling the beans… 😉
Anyways… what’s the overall verdict? Hmmmm? It was a nice evening’s movie entertainment on the couch for us… and I really got a warm feeling for the way Carolyn spent her time and effort finding it for me… so darn thoughtful. Still, I’m left with the feeling that it could have been…. well…. more. More what? That I’m not able to get a grip on… even having seen it now… but I do feel that the story was just lacking that certain “something” that could have made it stand out a bit more in my mind. With a good cast… unusual folklore monsters… an interesting location… and even a pretty neat “period” setting… I still can’t say this one was all that amazing a film. I give “Djinns” a mediocre 3 “Meows” out of 5 for being that middle-of-the-road movie thriller that just misfires for reasons unknown. Maybe others would like it more… this lil’ Catgirl just couldn’t.
The DVD? Well, the Region 1 Canadian release comes widescreen and letterboxed, in original French language with excellent English subtitles. Chances are good you might just be able to score a copy in the bargain bin of your local discount chain, much as my sweetie did, for right around 8-10$ US. If so… it’s probably worth it for genre fans looking for some more military flavored horror hi-jinx, but I honestly wouldn’t pay too much more than that for a look. Ah well… they can’t all be amazing.
As you might expect, there’s a Trailer available… and here it goes.