Pascal Plante’s Red Rooms is a psychological horror film that defies expectations by combining the overused genre of serial killer movies with the often-misused technique of dark Lynchian surrealism. This fusion results in something entirely new and original. The film delves into the unseen and the obscene, offering a captivating and disturbing experience for audiences. While it may initially appear to be a courtroom drama centered around justice, Red Rooms transcends this narrative and instead explores a world where boundaries are blurred and morality is questioned. With its potential to gain cult status and make waves on the genre circuit, Red Rooms is a force to be reckoned with.
The film begins with the majority of the plot having already taken place. As the opening credits roll over Vincent Biron’s striking blue cinematography, we meet Kelly-Anne, played by Juliette Gariépy. Kelly-Anne wakes up and embarks on a bus ride to a tall, sterile building. Inside, the color palette shifts dramatically as she passes through security and enters a bright, white, fluorescent-lit courtroom. The trial at hand involves Ludovic Chevalier, portrayed by Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, also known as The Demon of Rosemont. Chevalier stands accused of the brutal murders of three young girls, ages 13 to 16. What sets his crimes apart is the fact that they were live-streamed on the dark web, allowing a paying audience to watch the victims being tortured and killed.
The prosecuting attorney presents a chilling opening address, outlining the horrific nature of the case, while Chevalier, confined to a Perspex case, observes impassively. The prosecution’s evidence primarily consists of two graphic half-hour videos, as the third video remains missing. Chevalier’s defense team argues that he is a model citizen with no prior criminal record in his 39 years of life. They highlight the lack of suspicious financial activity and absence of a lavish lifestyle as flaws in the prosecution’s case.
Despite the abundance of circumstantial evidence, not everyone is convinced of Chevalier’s guilt. On her second day at the trial, Kelly-Anne encounters Clémentine, played by Laurie Babin, a murder enthusiast who has fallen in love with Chevalier. Clémentine claims that the videos were fabricated and dismisses the trial as a mere spectacle. An unlikely alliance forms between Kelly-Anne and Clémentine, but their friendship is tested when the courtroom is closed for the screening of the existing “snuff” videos. Kelly-Anne has already seen them and possesses them on a flash drive. Clémentine pleads to watch the videos, and witnessing the cruelty depicted within leads her to question her choices and leave.
However, Kelly-Anne continues to attend the trial, raising questions about her motives. This enigma lies at the heart of Red Rooms, overshadowing the motivations of the obviously disturbed killer. Throughout the first hour of the film, it becomes evident that something is amiss with the Chevalier case. Newspaper articles allude to a missing piece of the puzzle, and the elusive third video has acquired a mythical status online. Could Kelly-Anne hold the key? If so, is she an accomplice? Plante masterfully builds tension, gradually intensifying it to a point of near unbearable suspense. The climax arrives in a nightmarish scene where Kelly-Anne, now sporting blonde hair and blue contact lenses, reveals herself dressed in the school uniform of the third and final victim, bearing an uncanny resemblance. As she is escorted out by bailiffs, Chevalier, previously unreactive, looks up and waves.
The question of “why?” remains unanswered by Plante, who instead injects the film with nuanced details that offer glimpses into Kelly-Anne’s emotional state. Her modeling career takes a hit, with even fetishist website Dream to Dare canceling a photoshoot due to rumors surrounding her “extreme” interests, alluding to BDSM. One can interpret the movie as an exploration of S&M, where Kelly-Anne has somehow objectified and internalized both the killer and the victim. This duality contrasts her kindness towards Clémentine with an unknown capacity for depravity that she lives out in the realm of cyberspace.
Notably, Kelly-Anne’s online alias is Lady of Shalott, referencing Tennyson’s poem about a woman cursed to view the outside world solely through a mirror. In Red Rooms, the dark web becomes Kelly-Anne’s mirror, and Gariépy’s captivating and chilling performance keeps audiences mesmerized and unsettled throughout the two-hour film.
Red Rooms breaks new ground in the realm of psychological horror. Pascal Plante’s masterful blend of the serial killer genre and surrealism creates a profoundly disturbing yet captivating cinematic experience. With its exploration of the unseen and the obscene, the film leaves audiences questioning the boundaries of morality and the depths of human depravity. Red Rooms is a complex and thought-provoking work that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on those who dare to enter its twisted world.