This was really a preview for me of how the remake of The Eye originally by the Pang Brothers would look and feel, and if Them, or Ils if you prefer, is anything to go by then the remake is going to utterly bury the original.
Ils is a lesson in how to terrorise and frighten an audience, from the opening scene we're treated to just about everything that can possibly scare you. They've taken every aspect of scary, tension filled cinema and pulled it into one movie, and it works from the word go.
The screening was quite busy and there was a fair bit of chatter beforehand about Ils. Even the cinema staff were talking with me about how they wanted to see it but had to work the bar. Perhaps they were the lucky ones who managed to avoid the humiliation of leaping out of their seat during a supposedly jaded press screening. For the record, I didn't leap. I was, however, pretty uneasy and on edge from the beginning.
It's filmed handheld and has a grainer look to it. Rather than feel like amateur handheld work the directors have kept a very cinematic eye. This means that unless we're panicked or running there's a proper big screen film look to it and the multiple shots are well framed and conceived. This, rather than everything grabbed on the run and the audience hardly seeing anything with a single bouncing camera view.
These events are based on a true story, which is the perfect beginning to a horror-scare movie. It immediately lets you know that whatever you see might really have been experienced by someone, and that puts the audience on their guard, anticipating a horrific story before they've even seen a frame.
The opening scene lays down the key elements of the film to which you will find yourself returning at times. It sets you on edge and stretches out moments of tension, with the odd leap 'n' scream moment. That worked superbly and there were a number of people who leapt and cried out, and it wasn't the last time. There were sighs, deep breaths and jumps throughout the film.
After the opening scene we return to some normality and are shown the lives of the two leads, tied in with a nice reference to the opening event so that we don't forget the scares we've just been taken through.
It's not long before this feeling returns, and you see just how effective the two directors are at manipulating the audience. There's no doubt that this film is really for these guys to show what they are capable of and to use a series of set pieces to demonstrate the best of the horror-thriler genre, and this they do wonderfully well.
They have us by the throat as soon as the action begins, and they even manage to throw in clichés of going into the attic alone, going to investigate the sound, run into the darkness, etc without you rolling your eyes and thinking "not again!". You'll snigger slightly and perhaps shake your head, but you're still firmly in their grasp.
They also do a great job of stretching out the terror, of not showing you what's going on, and concentrating on keeping the ride going and up to speed. There's nothing new about the individual scenes and setups, but how they put them together and keep you on the edge of your seat, building that tension, certainly is. Mainly because here it works.
There are really two parts to this movie, the first is the psychological, unseen terror, and then we have the more in your face running terror, although the directors manage to keep the protaganist or protaganists hidden until very late in the film. It's a great strengh that they are kept hidden and obscured for so long, which makes the ultimate revelations that much stronger and shocking.
Light and noise are used to great effect in this film, and the noise travelling around the cinema was used to heighten the reality and compound the fear felt by the main characters.
The acting in both the male, Michaël Cohen, and female, Olivia Bonamy, leads is very strong and their terror is very tangible. is particularly good as she delivers a few moments where you could believe she is terrified for her life.
The ending and closing titles are, in a way, scarier than the film itself. For these reveal that terrifying link with reality that you usually don't have with a horror. After being scared to your wits end you can normally disconnect and return to your life, but here they take the final scare and make the link between the cinematic world and yours quite clear. So that now you take the terror with you.
This is an excellent film and the writer-directors show that they know how to manipulate an audience and create some terrifying entertainment. The Eye is certainly in strong hands. Sure people may argue that the film uses far too many stock horror moments, but others argue that these are the things you would really do in this situation. Quite frankly neither matters, they work them into the story perfectly and whatever happens you're dragged along for the ride kicking and screaming.