'Red Rooms' Review: Pascal Plante Makes Your Skin Crawl With Disturbingly Clever Psychological Horror | KVIFF 2023 (2024)

While we can dismiss ghosts, ghouls, and other fantastic creatures as figments of our imaginations, it is harder to let go of the uncomfortable feeling that the biggest monsters out there are people. Pascal Plante’s latest movie, Red Rooms (Les Chambres Rouges), is a brilliant investigation of the morbid curiosity that we all might feel from time to time and how it can become a dangerous obsession for certain individuals. Dangerous for themselves when their behavior puts them at risk, and dangerous for others when this obsession transmutes into violent behavior. However, while Red Rooms has much to say about the strangest things that capture human attention, the movie is, above all else, one of the most disturbing psychological horror stories in cinema.

Red Rooms revolves around the trial of Ludovic Chevalier (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos). Ludovic is accused of being the Demon of Rosemont, a brutal serial killer who kidnapped, tortured, sexually abused, and killed three underaged girls, filming the affair in disturbing live-show spectacles. His alleged crimes are stomach-turning, which, of course, means the trial itself occupies a central place in the media. However, as much as Ludovic’s trial kicks off the story of Red Rooms, the movie is mostly interested in Kelly-Anne (Juliette Gariépy), a young woman who attends every public session of the proceedings.

Kelly-Anne is a loner who makes a fortune between modeling and playing online poker, money she uses to turn her apartment into a digital fortress from where she can safely navigate the darkest corners of the web. Since Ludovic’s supposed crimes were streamed through fabled red rooms in the dark web, where rich people pay to watch the innocent suffer and die, Kelly-Anne has developed a particular interest in the case.

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'Red Room' Explores the Horrors of the Internet

'Red Rooms' Review: Pascal Plante Makes Your Skin Crawl With Disturbingly Clever Psychological Horror | KVIFF 2023 (1)

While Kelly-Anne is not related to the Demon of Rosemont’s murders in any way, she still does everything she can to remain close to Ludovic’s trial. At first, Red Rooms questions if she has some twisted attraction for the killer, but at every turn of the story, we are left puzzled, wondering why Kelly-Anne is exposing herself to public scrutiny just to stay close to the case. There’s something erratic and mysterious in her behavior, and Red Room leaves the audience guessing her intentions until the credits roll. Thanks to Gariépy’s magnetic performance, we keep getting pulled towards her as she descends deeper into the dark pits of the internet.

By overlapping scenes of the trial with Kelly-Anne’s online investigation, Red Rooms also explores how vulnerable we all are in the online era. She easily finds personal information about the victims’ families, and with only search tools at her disposal, uncovers information that is being locked away from prying eyes by the police. Kelly-Anne’s technological knack also makes it easier for her to surf the dark web and find more details about the Demon of Rosemont’s crimes. It all contributes to the atmosphere of paranoia the movie summons as we witness how unprotected we all are due to our overuse of digital tools. And since Red Rooms also explores the absolute horrors that can take place in virtual worlds, we can’t help but feel threatened by an unknown danger. On that note, it’s important to underline how relentless the film can be, guiding its audience on a journey of absolute despair.

The idea of people paying good money to watch or inflict suffering on others is nothing new. From films such as Hostel to recent hits like Escape Room, horror has a long tradition of fantasizing about the wealthy class as sad*stic people – which is a fair assumption. These movies, however, lean over ultraviolence and explicit acts of torture, which paradoxically can minimize each scene's emotional impact. As realistic a death can appear on the screen, we know a movie is only make-believe, and there’s always a subconscious part of our brain working to separate fiction from reality.

The Relentless Atmosphere of 'Red Rooms' Will Make You Shiver

'Red Rooms' Review: Pascal Plante Makes Your Skin Crawl With Disturbingly Clever Psychological Horror | KVIFF 2023 (2)

On the other hand, Red Rooms only suggests its violence, teasing the dark endeavors that happen in hidden corners of our world. The movie takes its time to explain the horrific concept of red rooms to the audience, underlining how real snuff videos can be. As such, we are aware of the gruesome pain some victims endure to fulfill the macabre fantasies of others, even if we cannot see exactly what’s happening. However, since the human mind has the nasty habit of filling in blanks by itself, Red Rooms leaves enough space for our imagination to complete the bloody picture.

It doesn’t take much to destabilize a healthy human brain. The noise of the saw, the screams of a young girl, and the knowledge her death involved things such as genital mutilation is all we need to sink into a state of absolute despair. Red Rooms is well aware of the functioning of this, which is why each frame is shrouded in mystery, meticulously crafted to make you squirm. From the cinematography of Vincent Biron to the soundtrack of Dominique Plante, every detail of Red Rooms contributes to an atmosphere of absolute dread that stretches through the movie’s entire runtime.

Red Rooms leaves no breathing space, to the point where even minor things, such as someone turning their head, can become a new source of anxiety. It’s an incredible feat, especially when the movie doesn’t feature even one scene of murder. Instead, the courtroom descriptions, the vague photos presented as evidence, and the reaction of the characters when they are exposed to the terrifying videos at the center of the case are more than enough for it to shake us to our core. It’s rare to feel the tension built inside a theater to the point where everyone is holding their breath, but Red Room is a unique movie that defies expectations and keeps pulling the audience deeper into the dark abysm of human nature.

Rating: A

Red Rooms had its world premiere at 2023’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

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'Red Rooms' Review: Pascal Plante Makes Your Skin Crawl With Disturbingly Clever Psychological Horror | KVIFF 2023 (2024)
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