There's this perfect young couple named Alain and Benedicte who live in an equally perfect house in the south of France. They've recently moved there so that Alain could start a new job as a home automation engineer. His first invention is this really cool remote controlled flying webcam. It's like this grapefruit-sized sphere with helicopter blades that you can make fly around and film stuff for you when you're not even home. I know my birthday is still over four months away but this sure would make a swell present.
Benedicte is currently jobless but busies herself cooking and cleaning and fixing up the house. She seems pretty much perfect in every way except for her enigmatic choice of blue jeans: she wears Wranglers. Didn't Wranglers used to be totally uncool? And aren't all French women intrinsically chic? So does this mean that Wranglers have made a comeback? Or is Benedicte just trying to be ironic? (A guy once told me that a girl actually broke up with him because he wore Wranglers; the trauma subsequently transformed him into a confirmed Levite. Oh, wait a minute. Maybe it was Lee jeans. Nevermind.)
So anyway, after a successful demo of the cool flying webcam, Alain invites his new boss and his boss' wife to his home for dinner. They arrive over an hour late. Mrs. Boss never removes her sunglasses, complains loudly about Mr. Boss' "whores", throws a glass of red wine in his face, and rips into poor Benedicte about how she'd better not dare feel superior to her. Then off they go. And all of this before the salad course is over.
Later that evening, Alain removes the trap underneath the kitchen sink which had become clogged earlier in the day. He spots the blockage and removes what he believes to be a small dead hamster but which actually turns out to be a small live lemming. The strange thing, as the vet points out the next day, is that lemmings live only in Scandinavia and aren't kept as pets in France. Also, he says, that thing about lemmings committing mass suicide by jumping into the sea is just a myth, but I already knew that from watching way too much Animal Planet. I wonder if I brought a half-dead lemming to my dog's vet if she'd be nearly so helpful and informative. I'm guessing no.
So anyway, Mrs. Boss continues her nutcase behavior by paying a surprise visit to Alain in his lab the following evening. Then she pays another one to Benedicte the day after that. In case you were wondering why I kept rambling on about tangential topics above, it's because this is really about all that I can tell you about the plot without giving stuff away. Though if you've read any of my other reviews you probably weren't wondering about that at all.
The first half of this movie is extremely suspenseful, in part due to this really scary music that made me have to pull the collar of my t-shirt up over my nose for protection. I kept feeling like Jason Voorhees was about to leap out of the closet with a chainsaw and slice everyone to bits, but then I'd remind myself that this is just a nice French movie about a Wrangler-wearing suburban couple with a pet lemming.
Or is it? See that's the thing. The longer the movie goes on, the creepier it gets, until slowly but surely it crosses over the line into the realm of the supernatural. Personally, I found this genre-jumping transition a bit disappointing. I mean you don't see Jason taking a break from his carnage to relax in a bistro sipping wine and munching on croque-monsieur, do you now?
But still. I'm not usually a big fan of thrillers, but this one grabbed me from the start. It's a throwback to the days when filmmakers used music and mood to mess with the audience's mind instead of relying on cheap scare tactics and special effects. For a while there, I thought I was going to end up dishing out two 9's in a row, thus completely ruining my credibility as a critic who's usually as hard to please as pre-Life cereal Mikey.
But fortunately, (or unfortunately really), the movie goes downhill from here and keeps on going for an overly long 129 minutes. Maybe I just don't have the endurance to be tense for that long, but I got to the point where I hardly cared how the movie ended, just so long as it did. But I can't really blame my loss of interest totally on my lack of emotional stamina; after a certain point the story just starts falling apart until it gets to the point where it becomes just downright idiotic.
But despite the unsatisfying ending and my belated realization that I'd been duped into believing that there would be rational explanations where there really were none, this movie is still well worth seeing. Flying webcams, cute lemmings, and the unexpected resurgence of Wrangler jeans. Who needs a tidy plot when you've got all this?