Written by Alain Vézina
Directed by Alain Vézina
Canadian cinema seems endlessly intertwined with the fringe appeal of horror genre. The first boom of horror happened in the 1970s when Canada’s tax policy allowed producers to take a fee of production costs before the film earned back its production costs (which is not allowed in the States), driving many low quality projects into theatres. Horror was always a safe bet because it was particularly cheap to make, and if they happened to land on a success the return on the investment would generally be a lot higher than for more “prestige” pictures. As that tax-shelter eventually closed up, there still remained a rather strong legacy of horror in Canadian cinema and to this day Canadian horror leans towards the adventurous and the innovative.
Yet, that isn’t always the case and unfortunately for those responsible for Le Scaphandrier, their work feels more in tune with a rushed and ultimately careless ploy for some tax money than a real movie. It’s rare that a film so particularly inept in terms of narrative and construction even makes it to theatres, and even at a brisk 80 minutes, the film feels painfully long. I don’t take particular joy in tearing down a film, because I always want to give the benefit of the doubt that those involved are more passionate than greedy – and let’s be real here, this is not a film that will likely recoup its investment (while Quebec films often fare better in this realm, a VAST majority of Canadian cinema never even recoup their production costs).
There are just so many problems with this film, that it is even frustrating to start to break it down. To begin with, the film feels like a later-year episode of Scooby Doo but without the Hanna-Barbera charm. The film feels like it was written for children in mind, a weird educational journey into the world of shipwrecks and deep-sea diving, yet the film’s insistence on constant sexual harassment towards the lead character and the grotesque (though poor and rather uninteresting) gore suggests that children were never in mind when making this film. This weird tonality creates a significant unbalance in terms of the film’s quality, constantly pushing the audience outside the film, forcing a little too much self-reflection over a film that should be praying that people don’t spend more than a couple of seconds thinking over it’s logical fallacies.
That perhaps is the biggest driving force that plunges this film into a special grade of terrible. The mythology they establish is not only terribly inconsistent, but ultimately makes little sense. This disconnect is only heightened as several of the film’s pivotal reveals happen with such lack of clarity, that the audience does not even realize which characters are being murdered or already dead until several scenes later. This sense of rushedness feels so counterintuitive, in particular because the film feels about an hour too long to begin with (I’m not sure if the film was only 20 minutes if it would be good, but at least it would only be 20 minutes).
It literally saddens me to see a film like this, as I consider all the possibilities that could have otherwise led to a decent film. I hope that those involved in this film get another shot, not necessarily because they deserve it (they don’t) but hopefully given another opportunity they might take some more time to think through what they’re making and perhaps put something together worth being proud of.