Le Serpent aux mille coupures (Thousand Cuts) (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A man on the run hides in a farm house, taking the family living there hostage.  As the search for him intensifies, dead bodies start to pile up.  Who is he and what has he done, who is killing these other people and why.

Based on the books by DOA and adapted for this film by DOA and director Eric Valette, Le Serpent aux mille coupures is a tense French polar, a sort of Thriller the French way.  The film takes its premise, adds extra bad guys, and pushes the limits a bit while still keeping a fairly simple way of going at things.  This creates a tension and suspense while the police and others are looking for a killer who tortures horribly his victims before killing them, while the man in hiding may or may not be this killer.  All the tension comes from how the story unfolds even after the audience knows who is doing what, something that is a sign of strong writing and directing.

Playing the man on the run I splayed by Tomer Sisley who gives a charismatic performance, attracting all attention on his whenever he is on the screen.  He creates a sort of anti-hero, a man who the audience wants to trust but feels like they can’t.  His performance is strong and nuanced, providing a powerful on-screen presence.  The rest of the cast here is numerous with a few stand-outs including Erika Sainte as Stephanie, the woman in the house where the man goes to hide.  She shows strength and a bit of desperation in how she evolves, how she deals with the situation her family is in.  Terence Yin as Tod gives a chilling, cold performance of man without emotions, or seemingly without emotions, who can exact his plans without flinching and with a certainty that is almost scary.  His performance is interesting to watch as he is almost robotic in his ways.

The film also builds its tension with how it is shot and edited.  The way cinematographer Jean-Francois Hensgens frames the scenes and shows the action creates an added layer of tension.  His work paired with that of editor Sebastien Pangere creates a visual style for the film that works with the story told.  Adding to these is the music by Christophe Boulanger and Mike Theis that adds a subtle layer to the suspense and tension.  Their work goes almost unnoticed at times but is something that greatly helps define the feeling of the film, how the viewer feels about the characters and their plight.

Le Serpent aux mille coupures is a tense polar that takes an undefined character and through the lead’s performance builds an interest in what happens to him and around him.  This character is one that feels like he could have more than one story worth telling on film.  Here director Valette creates suspense, tension, and a touch of dread that stay the course and work in taking the audience along for the ride as they try to figure out the twists and turns of the film.  The ambiance is reminiscent of film adaptations and novels of Jean-Christophe Grangé in tone and how the story by DOA is adapted.  Le Serpent aux mille coupures is a worthy addition to the French polar genre.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.