Red Rooms (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023

July 4th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Pascal Plante | Cast: Juliette Gariépy, Laurie Babin, Elisabeth Lucas, Maxwell McCabe Lokos | Thriller Canada

Canadian writer director Pascal Plante offers a cold-eyed look at the dangers of hybristophilia in this striking arthouse thriller that shares the same airless chill as the work of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, but somehow lacks the maestro’s resonance.

Sexual obsession with criminal offenders is a growing phenomenon particularly amongst women. From Ted Bundy to Charles Manson, serial killers have always had their female acolytes and here Plante focusses on the psychological rather than the physical in a hard-egded character study cum courtroom drama.

In a wintery Montreal aloof photographic model Kelly-Anne (Gariépy) surfs the internet’s illicit ‘red rooms’ and has become strangely fascinated by brutal child murderer Ludovic Chevalier (Lokos) whose grisly crimes are detailed in an informative opening scene by the prosecution barrister (a brilliant Natalie Tannous). The quiet almost unassuming murderer exudes a strange air of vulnerability, locked in his courtroom cage. In contrast Kelly-Anne is distant and detached in all her dealings and remains an impenetrable character throughout, apparently unmoved by the desperate pleas for help from one of the mother’s affected when the gruesome photos of the murders are revealed.

Kelly is gradually drawn under Chevalier’s spell attending every single court hearing in the hope of attracting his attention, even sleeping overnight outside the courtrooms despite the freezing weather. Here she meets a homeless drifter (Babin) and offers her board and lodging. The two form an unlikely bond as the enigmatic storyline drifts between reality and fantasy in a bracing psychodrama that explores female friendship, media manipulation, and probes the hitherto undiscovered recesses of the human mind and its capacity for both evil and benevolence. MT



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