J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fantastic Fest ’14: Tombville

If John-Paul Sartre rewrote Hostel, you sure wouldn’t want to be a character in it. Poor hapless David pretty much finds himself in that position. The horror is menacing and downright existential in Nikolas List’s Tombville (trailer here), which screens sometime during the 2014 Fantastic Fest (where they don’t trouble themselves over bourgeoisie things like schedules).

Waking up barefoot with no memory, David is essentially trapped in a strange town, where the sun never shines. After a few vaguely hostile encounters, a cryptic figure reveals to the twentysomething he will only be allowed to leave when he figures out why he is there in the first place. In between harrowing encounters, including one rather uncomfortable interrogation session, David starts searching his reawakened childhood memories for clues. Needless to say, there are usually very good reasons why the mind represses some incidents, but he seems to be on the right track when he discovers artifacts from his past in this eerie town.

Working with the barest of sets, List creates the most sinister mood and environment you will see on film in a month of Black Sabbaths. It is not a gore-fest or torture porn, but Tombville is still decidedly not for the fate of heart. We are talking dark here, in every sense.

Frankly, this is more of a sizzle-reel for what List and cinematographer Camille Langlois can do with a camera and a flashlight than an actor’s showcase. Still, Pierre Lognay certainly looks convincingly terrified and much abused as David. Frequent French screen heavy Eric Godon also makes a chilling villain, but it would be spoilery to explain how so.

Even though List has a somewhat experimental aesthetic and incorporates elements borrowed from westerns and psychological thrillers like Spellbound, Tombville is absolutely, positively horror. It runs less than seventy minutes, but it would be difficult to maintain such a malevolent vibe much longer. It is impressive work, recommended for hearty genre fans (instead of casual midnight movie dilettantes). It screens sometime over the coming week (9/18-9/25), when this year’s Fantastic Fest commences in Austin, Texas.

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