Director – Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Cast – Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud, Marie Bos, Bianca Maria D’Amato, Jean-Michel Vovk, Delphine Brual, Harry Cleven, Bernard Marbaix
Release Year -2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Italian giallo films of the 60s/70s/80s are some of my favorite films of all time, and made their mark on the horror genre with their beautiful visuals, great mystery storylines, and awesome blood-soaked horror. Since then the giallo sub-genre has since died out, despite Argento’s attempt at revisiting it with Giallo in 2009, but in the same year we were given a true homemage to Argento and Bava’s earlier films in the French effort Amer. Focusing heavily on visceral senses and supreme atmosphere, Amer delivers the best modern attempt at the famed Italian sub-genre that I have yet to see, and is one of the best films from last decade as well.
Amer follows Ana during three phases of her life; childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each of these phases comes with key sensual moments that define Ana’s life, and as she rides between reality and fantasy she finds herself stalked by a black-gloved killer who seems to know just where to find her during these key moments of her life.
I was not 100 percent sure what to expect with Amer. I figured it would at least somewhat follow the giallo template, but I had no idea that it would turn out the way it did, a masterpiece of superb visuals and truly sensual material. Simply put, Amer is Black Swan before Black Swan.
The story following Ana is great, and I loved that it came in three segments taking place in three phases of her life thus far. As you can imagine, the first act is her childhood, the second her adolescence, and the third her adulthood, with each act/phase consisting of sensual material in its own right as well as some positive horror as well. The horror in the film is not outright, and some of you may balk at that, but in the end I found the minuscule amount of horror to be worthwhile, although this film’s great rating comes mostly due to its quality as a film, not so much its horror. In fact, at times the film felt as if it were more of an “art house” film than horror, with its numerous long-winding scenes consisting of Ana’s seeking and enjoyment of numerous elements that seem to get her aroused, all coming with few spoken words. My only balk at the film came as a result of this, in which the film would begin to head in a horrific direction but would instead turn towards an artistic this or that, leaving me wanting more. Some of you may enjoy a film that toys with you and leaves you begging, and while I enjoy some films like that I really wanted Amer to deliver more of the horror in the giallo element and not so much showing off directing duo Helene Cattet and Bruna Forzani’s directing prominence.
While the story was great and gave us a unique take on the giallo sub-genre, Cattet and Forzani’s direction was superb and definitely the highest selling point of the film. From the get-go we are thrown into insanely superb atmosphere consisting of fantastic visuals, perfect lighting, great sets, and awesome camerawork that had me hooked from the get-go thanks to what I was visually seeing before me. I mentioned earlier that the story tends to abandon all dialogue, and while that sounds boring I never found myself uninterested in what was going on thanks to the superb direction we were given. Ana’s delusions consist of colored fantasies that were a true visual treat, and while at times it felt the did not make any sense I thought nothing of it and went along for the ride, which worked for me. You already know that the level of horror in the film is fairly low, especially in comparison to other giallo films, but the horror that we do get was great and very well executed. The usage of the gloved assailant was great, and although it takes a long while to pull through we are given a truly sensational kill(sadly the only kill in the film) during the film’s final sequence, including a climax that was perfect for the film and left me satisfied from this experience.
Overall, Amer is a unique modern day giallo film that is sure to please those seeking a horror film that is much more than a horror film. Superb visuals and captivating execution sell the film to the viewer, and while the storyline refuses to focus on dialogue we are given a creative story that I have yet to see in the genre. Although the horror is fairly low in comparison to similar films, Amer provides a truly horrific experience that you must pay close attention to in this beautiful and visceral experience. Highly recommended.