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‘Monstre numéro deux’ Movie Review – is a powerful sensorial experience

‘Monstre numéro deux’ Movie Review – is a powerful sensorial experience

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Monster numéro deux
Written by Antoine Barraud
Directed by Antoine Barraud
France, 2008

*What follows is a review of one half of a review of Fantasia’s special screening of not one but two of up and coming French filmmaker’s Antoine Barraud short films, Monstre numéro deux (36 min) and Les gouffres (62 min). This article discusses Monstre numéro deux.

Looking back at the past five years or so, the sub-genre of vampire films has inspired a countless amount of filmmakers and studios to take a crack at telling stories about those haunting creatures of the night. Not that prior to 2008 such cinematic experiences were a rarity per say, but the Twilight franchise (the first installment released in ’08) unquestionably gave the genre a shot in the arm. Interestingly enough, Antoine Barraud, one of France’s few writer-directors working within genre cinema, made his own vampire flick in the same year as the first Twilight picture, not to mention that his also was about the terrible repercussions of vampirism on a romantic relationship. Needless to say, Monstre numéro deux is no Twilight.

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Antoine Barraud stars in this impressive short as a man in dire need of some dental work. The procedure has some unintentional consequences however. Every night, once his lover (Nathalie Boutefeu) falls asleep, he cuts a tiny incision on her had, allowing some blood to trickle out, succulent blood which he then drinks. His transformation from mere man to nosferatu brings with it great emotional and existential pain, especially when his partner learns of what he has been doing to her.

Monstre numéro deux is an exemplary work from a director Barraud. Within a scant 36 minutes, he delves incredibly deep into the thematically dark passage of one couple’s existence from bliss to horror. The film skillfully shares the screen time between the two leads, revealing the variations of pain both feel as their lives enter a  nightmarish chapter from which there may be no escape. More time is awarded to the male protagonist given that he is the person forsaken to transform from man to monster, but Nathalie Boutefeu gets a fair amount during the story’s second half once her character is forced to reckon with the unforgettable consequences of her lover’s new existence.

What is most attractive about the picture is how it keeps absolutely everything grounded. Naturally, part of the reason for the realistic style has to do with time and budget. Let that not mislead unsuspecting viewers into believing that Barraud skirts around the horrific process of the metamorphosis. Quite the contrary in fact, it is tackled brilliantly and head on, only he does so with a grisly delicate touch. The film is very dark at times, yet the sounds are more than enough to fill the viewer in on what characters are feeling. One moment when the girlfriend visits her imprisoned vampire boyfriend is a sublime instance of minimal images accompanied by nerve wracking audio to convey chills as well as sadness.

When the visuals are not drenched in shadow, the movie displays the harrowing episode the protagonist is forced to adapt to. Inevitably his vampiric instincts get the better of him as he requires more and more blood. Avoiding a simplification of the character’s damnation, director (and actor) Barraud makes sure to communicate just how emotionally difficult the process is. Even when at his most animalistic, there is still an inkling of a battle transpiring within him. Barraud, as an actor, exhibits a unique sense of quiet subtlety and rage. The scenes in which he embraces his beastly side require mostly grunting and yelling. The scenes of struggle when he still very much human but slowly afflicted by an insatiable desire for more blood are when he really shines however. Just how much of the man remains inside him by the end? Monster numéro deux wisely offers a very open ended, surreal final scene to leave audiences guessing long after the credits have rolled.

Monstre numéro deux is not only a finely crafted and acted short film, it offers a bold interpretation of the vampire genre. Both subdued and horrific all at once, it proves a memorable experience for both fans of horror films and psychological dramas.

-Edgar Chaput
The Fantasia Film Festival celebrates 17 years and runs from July 18th to August 7th, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official website for the Fantasia Film Festival.

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