Friday, January 11, 2019

Playing with Tropes: Cannibal

This is a 2010 film directed by Benjamin Viré and whilst not a vampire film per se it has a level of ambiguity woven within it and definitely touches on one of the major tropes of the genre. It also plays with the concept of mental health impairment – in this case agoraphobia. However this is not a fear of open spaces so much as the actuality of agoraphobia, a form of anxiety that leads the sufferer to avoid situations, including social ones, where it might make escape impossible. This can translate to not leaving one’s home but not necessarily so.

The sufferer in this is Max (Nicolas Gob) a young man who lives in a secluded house by a woodland and spends most of his days practicing his golf swing in the woods. We see his agoraphobia in full swing when he hides in his house when his brother calls – refusing to interact. He is not entirely cut off from social contact – we later see that he does interact with a taciturn hunter. We also eventually learn that his condition is as a result of the very ropey criminal life he used to lead.

Max and Bianca
When he is out with his club one day, he finds a bloodied girl (Helena Coppejans, Raw) lying in the wood – who at first glimpse appears dead. He picks her up and carries her home. She isn’t dead, however, though she doesn’t give her name (he suggests that she looks like a Bianca and that is her name through the film, thereafter). We also see some wrong ‘uns who are dispatched to find a girl who has been 'lost'.

in the woods
Bianca leaves the house in the night and Max follows her, catching her in a car with a man and she is eating him alive. Max becomes an accomplice as he disposes of the body and removes the car from the area (being picked up by the hunter to get back to his home). He starts to fall for the girl and the relationship is one partially of love, partially of fear and partially of servitude. He takes her to a dogging area at one point and finds her in a town’s graveyard during the day and, again, helps dispose of the corpse she leaves behind. In many ways then he becomes a Renfield equivalent. We know he has a mental health impairment (Renfield was, of course, portrayed as a lunatic) but this is not key, more apropos is the devotion and servitude (which is almost chosen) that is displayed.

consumption in the graveyard
This is not the big trope, however. That comes in the actions of Bianca. She has entirely conflated love (and the act of intimacy) with the act of consumption. The times we see her feed she is in a sexual situation. When we see her hunt, if I can call it that, it is through flirtation and sexuality. This is akin to both the vamp of early cinema and the sexually driven vampire of the later genre. When she and Max actually get close to intimacy she is biting at his flesh (though she doesn’t break the skin) as though she is unable to break the connection between the act of love and the act of feeding.

Why she is like this we do not know. The bad guys, who eventually kidnap her and force Max to return to civilisation and face his past, use her as entertainment – consuming the losers of illegal cage fights. They are described as gypsies and, of course, there is often a use of gypsy characters in the genre too. Yet the film leaves much to imagination and guesswork. As for the film itself, well it is a love story more than a horror but a darkly drawn one. The colour-scale used was, perhaps, ill advised – too washed out, perhaps, in the first half of the film, pulling further back to black and white later, with flashes of colour in the feeding and the love (again conflating the two). The pace is languid, the story obscured, the dialogue unusual and some of the interactions less then explained, but it does play with genre tropes – love and consumption and the vampire’s servant.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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