If you’re looking for a fresh, disturbing horror film this Halloween season but are tired of seeing the new ways in which Saw producers can remove limbs and splash innards, then you need not look too far. Quebec filmmakers have proven that they can scare the shit out of you and tell a good story at the same time.
In the psychological thriller 5150, rue des Ormes, we are drawn into an unpredictable world of isolation, despair, and mind-games. In the film, Montreal talent Marc-André Grondin, well-known for his role as a sexually confused teenager in 2005’s C.R.A.Z.Y., plays Yannick, an aspiring filmmaker who just got accepted to a film school in rural Quebec. Before long, he is committing a horror flick faux-pas: entering a stranger’s house uninvited. Yannick sees something he shouldn’t see, and when the home’s inhabitants realize this, he is locked into an empty room and becomes a prisoner in the family’s suburban home. As the film unfolds, Yannick makes desperate attempts at escaping, but as his attempts continuously fail, he is left with only one possibility: to beat the man who imprisoned him – serial killer and invincible chess player Jacques Beaulieu – at his own game.
Director Eric Tessier’s fluid shots as well as Grondin’s phenomenal performance as Yannick bring us deep into the mind of this perfectly average and innocent character, who develops into a beaten-down, disturbed, and emotionless shell of who he used to be as the film progresses. The film is set primarily in the Beaulieu family’s home, which gives the viewer the feeling of being trapped there with Yannick. As cabin fever sets in, we become desperate for a breath of fresh air or a change of scenery. But we aren’t given one. Instead, we are forced to suffer Yannick’s isolation with him, and experience the growing comfort he has with his circumstances. As the film progresses, Yannick becomes eerily accustomed to his new setting. Although the Beaulieu family is keeping him against his will, in an odd way, they begin to stand in for the family he never had. He begins to retreat inward, obsess over chess, and have creepy hallucinations reminiscent of Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. Yannick’s progression throughout the film showcases the range of Grondin’s acting abilities. Similarly, the supporting cast, who depict the members of the Beaulieu family, is comprised entirely of Quebecois actors, and portray the psychological effects of Jacques’s patriarchal control with pitch-perfect sensibility.
An interesting point raised by a friend, who filled the role of “hand to squeeze during the scary parts,” is the way in which female characters are uniformly repressed throughout the film. Maude, the wife and mother, is timid and completely dependent on her husband and on her religious beliefs. Michelle, an aggressive punk teen, takes on the role of apprentice to her father’s serial-killing campaign, but struggles to gain his approval. Anne, the younger daughter and arguably the film’s most tragic character, is permanently affected by the punch she received from her father while still in the womb. Clearly, 5150, rue des Ormes can be read as a commentary on patriarchal violence, and paints a distressing portrait of its realities.
5150, rue des Ormes is a grossly compelling film that manages to reveal the thin line between normalcy and lunacy, without being preachy or cautionary. For those who are a little bit squeamish, there are a few disturbing shots featuring blood, corpses, and a lot of chess (but it’s tasteful, I swear!) If you’ve read this far and really don’t think that this is your type of movie, you could at least go for the sheer pleasure of seeing Marc-André Grondin in his underwear for about half of the film’s duration.
5150, rue des Ormes is out in wide release throughout Montreal.