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Friday, 3 October 2014

Cabine of the Dead (2010)

Director: Vincent Templement
Stars: Richard Keep, Slony Sow, Yvette Petit, Pascal Montel and Bernard Cormerais
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon IV in Tempe in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
While six of the ten shorts that screened at Fear Fest IV were European, four of those were Spanish, so it fell to writer/director Vincent Templement to represent France with the very last slot. Cabine of the Dead looked very stylish from moment one, with its pulsing electronic score, nice camera angles and enticing lighting. We're gradually focusing in on Patrick, who's running scared and takes refuge in the location of the title, which isn't a cabin in the woods, it's what the French call a cabine téléphonique and we would call a phone box or a public phone booth. He's apparently a complete moron, because he doesn't seem to have a clue what's attacking him. Is it really viable that anyone in the western world in 2011 wouldn't recognise zombies when they're outside his phone box clamouring for his brains? That pointless idiocy was by far my biggest problem with the film, because it doesn't help us connect to his character at all. Otherwise, it's relatively well put together, especially on the technical side.

Not everything is solid. I didn't appreciate the brief shakiness the cameraman suffered from while Patrick is trying to close the door on the nearest zombie; I'm sure he was aiming at grittiness but it came across more like Parkinson's. He does a lot better emphasising the claustrophobia Patrick must surely feel inside the phone box by shooting from within it. I don't know if the camera was mounted inside or they built the booth with a removable panel so they could have a little more room; either way it works really well. There are a few longer shots too, which highlight how isolated Patrick is and how there are more zombies on the way to join the throng literally rattling his cage. More extras would have helped here, but it's staged well and I liked the composition of it all. The back and forth editing as Patrick phones the various people who might help him might be inevitable, but this screams out as being a perfect opportunity to play the whole thing out in splitscreen, building contrast rather than merely distance.
What Templement nails more consistently is a subtle humour. Even as he builds the tension, he's aware of the opportunity for laughs or, at least, for smiles. He doesn't try to tickle our ribs too overtly, but I had a smile on my face throughout, mostly because of how he built the supporting characters. Patrick himself is built primarily through the order that he rings people and the reactions he gets. After he discovers the wait time to talk to the cops, he tries Didier, a friend who falls asleep with his hand in his shorts and tries to write directions on the inside of a pizza box. Eventually he gets to mum and the reason why she's last is clear from her reaction. The funniest to me was when he rings his sister, Sophie, but gets her husband Marc. Their son is eating her and Marc thinks he can take him down calmly with a spatula. Pascal Montel nails the tone magnificently, even with much less screen time than Richard Reep gets as Patrick. Reep is good but hamstrung by being a dork who doesn't know what zombies are. He deserves to get eaten.

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