5150 Elm’s Way (2009)
(18) Running time: 110 minutes
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
The plot of this film promises plenty of violence and torture, however the actual truth is there is very little violence on offer here but lots of mental torture rather than physical. 5150 Elm’s Way is a clever little chiller all about mind games and a psychotic Father who wants to rid the world of evil and play chess. Yannick Bereube (Marc-Andre Grondin) is cycling down Elm’s Way when he comes off his bike and cuts himself. He looks for the nearest house to go and get himself cleaned up and finds the residence of the Beaulieu family headed up by Father Jacques (Norma D’Amour), Mother Maude (Sonia Vachon) and daughters Michelle (Mylene St-Sauveur)and another young girl. This family are not all right in the head, the Father is obsessed with chess and cleansing the world of evil people and wants his equally deranged but not yet murderous daughter to join him and eventually take over the ‘cleansing’. Mother Maude is a quiet, odd little woman whom Jacques adores but she will never speak up to him and carries on about her day quietly cooking his meals and doing other chores. The pair have a strong relationship, its like Maude knows her place and goes out of her way to please her husband, and he in turn appreciates it. On first impressions they seem normal enough, the loving parents and the teenage daughter at the rebellion stage listening to loud music and walking round with the “I don’t care” attitude.
Poor old Yannick though, is about the meet another side to this family, a side people would rather not see. Living on the end of a row of houses, Maude eventually allows Yannick into the house to clean himsefl up, Jacques comes home, knocks out Yannick and chains him up in their spare bedroom. The thought of beatings and violence will no doubt get you wondering just how the Hell the director will manage to keep up a strong level of tension since Yannick has been imprisoned a mere five minutes into the film. The answer to that question is that the director clearly intended to, but he misses the target on many occasions. Thats not to say this is a bad film, far from it, but it doesn’t ever get past that feeling of wanting more. It heads off into bizarre situations of Yannick building a relationship with Maude, Michelle starting down her path to violence by beating him now and again, and Jacques developing a strange and unsettling sense of friendship and acceptance from Yannick.
With the police searching for Yannick, the film never spends any time with them, staying in the house and creating a real sense of being cut off from the outside world, a real sense of claustrophobia which often works but sadly limits what the film can actually do. However, strangely enough at just under two hours, Tessier manages to keep you interested and focused for the majority of the film. The atmosphere is, at times, very unsettling, and you just never know quite how the film will pan out. There are moments of violence, they are short and few, but when they do come they are often brutal but over quick. One of the hardest to watch scenes is when Jacques punishes himself by walking on broken glass. Jacques, you see, is a little disturbed, and he desperately wants his daughter to start killing with him (a tutorial lesson in a strangers house is quite unsettling to watch) and he also desperately wants someone to beat him at chess. This is one aspect of the story I struggled with, the playing of chess just seemed a bit desperate, a bit unremarkable as a way of moving the story forward. Yannick learns the game and seeing Yannick and Jacques play is a bit weird. You could argue that Yannick has come to feel the need to beat his captor, or the fact he has become comfortable in his surroundings, whatever the reasons, the playing of chess just felt a bit silly. However, the game does lead on to a reveal that is truly bizarre and one of the most unsettling reveals you will see all year.
I really can’t say too much more about the plot in this film because it is a bit of a mystery and there are twists and turns and reveals that you would not see coming. Its no classic, but then its no stinker either, 5150 Elm;s Way sits very nicely in the middle, one of those films that, once finished, you will easily forget. It has strong characters and a bizarre plot, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being cheated out of something much much better. Tensions run high, but are quickly diluted, violence starts and all of a sudden it is over, twists do happen but rarely have the intended impact and, although this film clearly wants to get under your skin, it doesn’t. An average thriller with a neat but flawed idea, it has clever camera work, strong music, a great setting and some scenes that will either get you thinking or slightly unsettle you.The film has the odd freaky scene, one of which was actually quite nightmarish, and it leads to a conclusion that will please some and irritate others. This is not a film for everyone though, and I feel that maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for it and kind of missed the point, or it could be the fact that, it is rather dull in places, but clever in others. In all honesty, its a bit of a mess and it feels like it wants to say something but just doesn’t quite know how to get its point across. An acquired taste, then.
[pt-filmtitle]5150 Elm’s Way[/pt-filmtitle]