Ever get the feeling you’ve been lied to?
About two weeks ago, a strange, scarred man with a hook for a hand offered me a packet of Opal Fruits to follow him down an alley. Hungry and excited, I accepted his offer and followed his lead down a dark, shadowy walkway.
Within seconds, I found myself being physically beaten by six men who proceeded to steal my mobile telephone and my wallet. As they made away, I lay in a crumpled heap, in pain but still in high spirits, awaiting the fruity treats that would, no doubt, be coming my way. I waited for three hours before I had to accept that the Opal Fruits were not coming. I had been tricked.
When I sat down to watch giallo-inspired French thriller, Amer, I had a similar feeling. I had been tricked again!
Amer is a film made up of three individual segments. The first segment sees a young girl experience a night of terror and confusion at home after seeing the body of her recently deceased grandfather. The second segment finds her in her teens, distracted on a trip into town with her mother by a mob of hyper-masculine bikers. The third segment finds the same character as an adult, returning to her childhood home. Once there, she is haunted by visions of violence and starts to lose her grip on reality and identity.
The first section of Amer is the best. In this section, the filmmakers employ visual tricks to create an imposing, tense atmosphere. The dialogue is sparse, as it remains through the entire film, which, combined with a barely present soundtrack, results in every noise heightening the tension.
Many visual elements of the giallo genre this film is paying homage to are present. There’s peeking through keyholes, a shadowy witch-like figure and some otherworldly colours filling the screen. It’s a strong viewing experience, but one which the rest of the film fails to live to live up.
If some films lag in the middle, Amer stops what it’s doing entirely at its midpoint and starts aggressively punching itself in the crotch. What’s most frustrating is that it does it with all of the subtlety of a crotch punching, too.
In this section we get a barrage of sexual imagery thrown into our unsuspecting faces. It’s a complete shift in tone for the film and, for me, it doesn’t work at all. None of the elements that made the first section so enjoyable are present and the continued plodding pace becomes boring in the absence of tension. There are still some interesting visuals and sounds, but not enough.
By the time the film moved on to the final segment, it had a job on its hands to win me back. A car journey-turned dream sequence seemed an ominous start, but upon seeing the main character return to her childhood home, I hoped that the film would recapture the atmosphere of the opening section. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
This section does feature some nasty violence and some cat-and-mouse killer-stalks-victim shenanigans, but it’s just not enough for a film that’s become so stagnant. Even with a runtime under ninety minutes, by the time the end credits roll Amer has long outstayed its welcome.
A quick note should be made that, where music does feature, it’s pretty terrific, and sounds exactly like something out of an old Italian horror movie.
The problem I have with Amer is that, rather than being the giallo film the trailer promised, it’s an art project with giallo as its theme. The giallo elements are visual and aural. The story elements are entirely missing, as the film features no real narrative at all.
While I can see what some people enjoyed in the film, it certainly wasn’t for me and I would advise giallo enthusiasts and casual viewers alike to approach the film with caution.
Before I get into the extra features, I’ll make a quick note about the menus on the disc. I’m not sure if this is something that has been fixed since I got my review copy, but navigating around the disc is more frustrating than trying to find Opal Fruits in a dark alley when your eyes are flooded with blood and the Opal Fruits aren’t even there.
The disc features a full and a teaser trailer for the film. They’re good trailers, but they don’t really give an accurate account of the film. Also included are four short films by the directors of Amer. These are actually a really good inclusion. In smaller segments, just having interesting visuals works better. It’s also interesting to see them develop the techniques they eventually used in their feature.
Ameris out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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