Proie (Antoine Blossier, 2010)
I have had an hypothesis running through my head for seven years now about French horror films (and if you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you probably know it as well as I do): with one exception (Ils), the less press a French horror movie gets in the United States, the better it is likely to be. Here we have yet another piece of evidence: Proie (Prey in English-speaking countries), a straight-up survival-horror monster movie whose creators are intimately familiar with, and have a great love for, seventies grindhouse ecohorror creature features like Day of the Animals and Eaten Alive and Kingdom of the Spiders. Blossier and Vogel, both turning in their first film, spared no expense in making this movie as silly, badly-shot, dumb, and downright fun as can be. It’s an exhilarating nostalgia trip for anyone old enough to remember those movies with any fondness whatsoever…and yet there is more to this as well. I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on what yet, but it’s something that makes me think this movie bears as valid a comparison to the good old days of monster-movie making (specifically, it put me in mind of Leningen Versus the Ants and to a lesser extent The Most Dangerous Game) as it does to The Savage Bees.
Plot: The LeMans family are a French giant in the agriculture world. The newest addition to the family is Nathan (Beau Travail‘s Grégoire Colin), who has just married chief chemist, and granddaughter, Claire (The Artist‘s Bérénice Bejo). It’s not an easy match; the rest of the family looks sideways at him, and Claire is often too consumed with work to give him the time he needs to feel secure in their relationship. After another tense family gathering, Nathan and Claire are headed out, when she tells him she needs to stay behind in town and keep working on the family fertilizer factory’s newest formula; she’s inches away from a major breakthrough. He’s understandably angry, and so makes an impulsive decision to join the family men at the le Mans game preserve for a weekend of good old-fashioned hunting. He hops into the car with David (Léon‘s Joseph Malerba), the family scion and the only guy there who actually seems to like Nathan, and David’s two sons, Eric (13 Tzameti‘s Fred Ulysse) and Nicolas (La Haine‘s François Levantal), and the four of them head for the well-guarded, fenced-off forest…where they soon discover that something is not right, not right indeed.
That much synopsis gives you everything you need to know if you’re at all familiar with ecohorror movies. It’s far-fetched craziness, of course, but it’s far-fetched craziness of the highest order—Blossier and Vogel are obviously huge fans of Greydon Clark and his ilk, and they have a deep, deep love for the crazy-crappy ecohorror flicks of the seventies. It shows. This movie is more fun than a barrel of genetically-altered monkeys. I sill haven’t been able to put my finger on what it is about the movie that makes it feel so much more intelligent than the average ecohorror movie, but it’s there, and I like it. This is good stuff indeed. *** ½