Room of Death

[a.k.a. La chambre des morts]
Dir: Alfred Lot
Star: Mélanie Laurent, Eric Caravaca, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette

Before toppling over into something too close to a less well-explained version of Le silence des agneaux for comfort, this isn't too bad at all: it plays a bit like an episode of CSI: Dunkirk, as rookie profiler Lucie Hennebelle (Laurent) has to unravel a strange case. On the way to deliver a ransom, a young girl's father is apparently knocked down - both he and the money he was carrying vanish. The girl is found dead nearby, dressed to resemble a doll Lucie remembers from her childhood, and smiling - which is odd, since the dead can't smile. Another one is abducted shortly afterwards: this one is diabetic, adding a ticking-clock to proceedings. Meanwhile, the killer, having seen what happened to the ransom, is not going to let go of that two million Euros without a fight - and at least one of the two men responsible is no less cold-bloodedly methodical. Lucien has to work out who's responsible, based on strange clues like wolf-hair found on the dead girl, in time to save the second victim.

While Laurent - who recently reached a far bigger audience in Imgloryus Barstewards [or however Quentin decided to spell it] - is pretty good, the movie eventually topples over into a series of elements that are either incoherent or nicked from Lambs. Indeed, at one point, a visiting fellow-cop pulls a copy of the book off Lucie's shelf, just in case we hadn't noticed. Though given the climax has Lucie, without backup, wandering round the killer's lair in the dark, searching for the kidnapped girl, anyone who doesn't get the reference should check themselves for a pulse. The setting - I'd say Dunkirk plays like a French version of Seattle - is nicely used, and there are moments which are definitely more Gallic than Hollywood. Hard to imagine Clarice Sterling, say, being caught masturbating in the shower. I'd like to have seen more of this. Er, I don't mean Lucie's bathroom fun [well, I wouldn't have minded...], more the movie going its own way. Instead, a combination of too much familiarity, and a resolution which leaves a lot of questions unanswered, left me feeling that this was a lost opportunity.

[February 2010]

Room with a view... OF DEATH!
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