Good mystery-horror from Quebec that mixes crime, detection,
hallucination and the supernatural to satisfying effect.
The 2003 EVIL WORDS, or SUR LE SEUIL, was a sizeable
success in its native Quebec, and is often dubbed the finest-ever
Quebec-made horror movie. It was based on a novel by Patrick Senecal and
directed by first-timer Eric Tessier, who prior to this film was best
known for the multi award-winning 1998 short “Viens Dehors!,” or “Come
Out!” (included on the EVIL WORDS DVD), and has since been attached to
direct the Dimension Films production LIVING DEAD GIRL.
On the day of a seemingly senseless massacre of several
children, bestselling horror writer Thomas Ray attempts suicide, cutting
off all his fingers before doing so. Ray survives but remains in a
comatose state. Has-been psychiatrist Dr. Paul Lacasse is given the
unenviable job of delving into Ray’s past to ferret out what made him do
what he did.
Helped out by a tabloid journalist pal and a pregnant
woman colleague, Lacasse discovers that Ray kept a scrapbook of
real-life tragedies upon which he apparently based his fiction--although
it seems that in many cases the incidents took place after Ray
had written his fiction. This inspires Paul to look into the massacre
that occurred the day of Ray’s attempted suicide, and the man who
committed it. The interview is over with quickly, with the murderer
admitting he doesn’t really know why he committed the killings.
Next Lacasse heads to the rural town where Ray grew up
to talk to his mother, who recalls Ray writing a story about a Satanic
sect as a teenager. The yarn had a basis in fact, as a visit to an
elderly priest confirms.
According to the priest, around the time of Ray’s birth
a depraved reigioso engaged in Satanic shenanigans that culminated with
a newborn child baptized in the name of Satan. That child was Thomas
Ray, whose Satanic powers are apparently manifesting themselves in the
massacres patterned after his imaginings, which aren’t finished by any
Structurally this is an investigative mystery of a type
usually seen on TV, but stylistically it’s far more expansive. Eric
Tessier’s visuals are hip and flashy, utilizing gaudy colors and
hallucinatory CGI segues depicting grotesque and blasphemous imagery
(which based on his work thus far appears to be Tessier’s trademark).
Yet the flashiness never detracts from the impressive
performances by many of Quebec’s top actors, or the momentum of the
narrative, which is expansive and novelistic--and contains some gruesome
surprises. Some might find the extreme gore of the final scenes
overwrought, but the nastiness closes out the film in jolting and
appropriately disquieting fashion.
EVIL WORDS is by no means the first treatment of the
writer’s-words-inspiring-actual-calamities concept (see the seventies
Canadian film DEAD LINE and Ramsey Campbell’s tale “The Depths,” to name
a couple examples), but Tessier’s innovative treatment of the theme, at
once staunchly old fashioned and up-to-date, is without
EVIL WORDS (SUR LE SEUIL)
Alliance Atlantis/Go Films
Director: Eric Tessier
Producer: Nicole Robert
Screenplay: Patrick Senecal, Eric Tessier
(Based on a novel by Patrick Senecal)
Cinematography: Denis-Noel Mostert
Editing: Alain Baril
Cast: Michel Cote, Patrick Huard, Catherine Florent, Albert Millaire,
Jean L’Italien, Jacques Lavalee, Jean-Pierre Bergeron