Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #476
Number of Views: One
Release Date: August 3, 2013 (Montreal)
Country of Origin: Canada
Running Time: 81 minutes
Director: Renaud Gauthier
Producer: Marie-Claire Lalonde
Screenplay: Renaud Gauthier
Special Effects: Rémy Couture
Cinematography: John Londono
Score: Bruce Cameron
Editing: Arthur Villers
Studio: Durango Pictures
Distributor: Black Fawn Distribution
Stars: Jérémie Earp-Lavergne, Sandrine Bisson, Ivan Freud, Francois Aubin, Ingrid Falaise, Katherine Cleland, Mathieu Lepage, Pierre Lenoir, Catherine Antaki, Sibylle Gauthier, Christian Paul, Chelsea Eaton-Lussier, Nancy Blais, Benoit St-Hilaire, Nicolas Laliberté, Jane-Anne Cormier, Marie-Claire Lalonde, Renaud Gauthier, Davyd Tousignant, Salvador Valdez
Suggested Audio Candy
 Symphonic 2000 “Bees Knees”
 KISS “I Was Made for Loving You”
 Bruce Cameron “Theme From Discopath”
It is easy to forget the significant output of Canada with regards to the early eighties slasher boom. Amidst middling fare such as Don McBrearty’s American Nightmare and Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train, were superior slashers such as Richard Ciupka’s Curtains, J. Lee Thompson’s Happy Birthday to Me, and George Mihalka’s top-tier effort, My Bloody Valentine. Two other Canadian offerings which perched themselves comfortably in the middle ground were Jean-Claude Lord’s Visiting Hours and Paul Lynch’s Prom Night, and these are perhaps the most relevant when speaking about Discopath as both of their influences can be seen here.
This curious debut from French Canadian filmmaker, Renaud Gauthier, pays affectionate homage, not only to slasher movies, but also to the Italian giallo output of the seventies. Gauthier’s film wears its inspirations proudly on its sleeve and manages to recreate the era rather successfully. Indeed, at times, we could almost be watching a movie from that very era, such is the authenticity of his approach. However, it’s not all good news, as those searching for a savvy-scripted piece of post millennia stalk and slash hokum will no doubt be left severely disappointed. While I can see what he was driving at, few films recently have frustrated me to such a degree and left me so effortlessly bamboozled.
Like Visiting Hours and William Lustig’s Maniac, our killer doesn’t hide behind a mask of anonymity and is made clear pretty much from the offset. We are quickly introduced to short order cook Duane Lewis (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne), a rather hot-blooded young man with an illogical revulsion for anything disco. Unfortunately for Lewis, he is a citizen of discocentric 1976 New York and the four-on-the-floor beat is ringing out from every conceivable direction. After being hustled into paying a visit to local hot spot, Seventh Heaven, by foxy rollergirl Valerie (Katherine Cleland), Duane wastes no time in showing his disdain for the musical movement and calling time on their blossoming friendship.
Realizing he has acted irrationally, Duane swiftly high-tails to Montréal and our story shifts forward to 1980 where he has managed to reinvent himself as Martin, a handyman at a Catholic girls’ boarding school, overseen by no-nonsense headmistress Sister Mireille (Ingrid Falaise) and perverse Father Antoine (Pierre Lenoir). It’s not long before it is revealed why he suffers this extreme aversion to disco as his father was electrocuted before his very eyes leaving him nursing some severe childhood trauma when he should have blamed his dad’s shoddy wiring rather than hating on Earth, Wind & Fire.
Anyhoots, while wearing a hearing aid initially works well at blocking out any disco grooves, eventually it all comes flooding back and Duane is forced into extreme measures once again. It turns out that Catholic girls aren’t quite as sweet and innocent as it first appears and what better way to engage in a little harmless girl-on-girl exploration than by listening to some anthemic disco 45s and putting the “c” in funk. Duane finds an inventive new use for 7″ vinyl as he puts these semi-naked vixens to task (one of which is played by Gauthier’s own daughter Sibylle) and this alerts the inept New York police, in particular, resolute detective Jack Stephens (Ivan Freud), still reeling from the mass of paperwork he left them four years ago.
In typical giallo style, although minus any form of ambiguity, a game of cat-and-mouse commences as our discopath attempts to stay one step ahead of the authorities whilst continuing his one man crusade against disco. The second act provides us with a little up-close-and-personal time with Duane as he torments school teacher Mireille (Sandrine Bisson) in the comfort of his own personal dance hall. However, he is not the most discreet killer, and it isn’t long before the net comes closing in. Enter the obligatory chase scene, some cut-price vehicular stunts, and a tightfisted conclusion which denies Detective Stephens his opportunity of bagging himself a real live one.
This isn’t an easy movie to appraise as many of its flaws are charmingly evocative of the era and, therefore, troublesome to criticize. Numerous quibbles aside, Gaulther remains one to watch in the future. Discopath certainly has its moments and there’s a glorious early scene beneath a transparent dance floor whereby an injured victim attempts in vain to alert the attention of the oblivious above head revelers which is the kind of smart trick Brian De Palma would have played in his heyday. However, it just doesn’t hang together as a cohesive whole and we are left feeling a little short-changed by the time the closing credits arrive to whisk us back to 2015.
As a directorial debut, Gauthier’s film, which he also writes, fares remarkably well as it manages to capture the late-seventies vibe remarkably well and he deserves great kudos for what he achieves on such a scant budget. The vintage soundtrack, featuring the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band and KISS, provides a fitting throwback, while Bruce Cameron’s composition supplies a pulsating underscore which takes its electronic cues from the likes of John Carpenter. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay is that, like Ti West’s The House of The Devil, it truly feels like a movie from another time entirely. Unlike West’s modern masterpiece however, it lacks any real sense of purpose and that makes for a rather frustrating 81 minutes of disco dancing and death-dealing.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The practical effects courtesy of Rémy Couture are gleefully messy and involve wonderfully ironic death by vinyl as a 45 doubles up as a particularly mean-spirited stabbing weapon and the moment when our diva attempts to use the disembodied head of one of his victims as a fresh slipmat for his turntable. Any cries of misogyny will likely ring out as he dances naked around one unfortunate bound female but The New York Ripper this is not and Gauthier refuses to ever stoop that low. Dagnabbit. If you’re going to make an omelette right?
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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