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A retro-mad slasher pic about a man who’s just crazy for dance music, Renaud Gauthier‘s Discopath stars a shy New Yorker whose cartoonishly grisly homicides are triggered by the relentless bass of disco. Made solely for the species of gorehound who treasures his VHS collection of Lucio Fulci and De Palma flicks above all else, the film could engage in select midnight-movie bookings before joining its ancestors on video shelves.
Jeremie Earp plays Duane Lewis, a sexually inexperienced fry cook in a version of 1970s New York where everyone’s broad bridge-and-tunnel accent has a peculiar Canadian undertone. After flipping out in a discotheque and killing the gum-smacking chick who wanted to seduce him, Lewis hotfoots it to Montreal, where the accents sound much more natural.
There, he takes a new identity, working as a handyman in an all-girls school and wearing a hearing device in an attempt to block out the music that triggers his madness. (In a flashback, we see that Duane’s music-loving father was electrocuted while futzing with his stereo.) Gauthier revels in the fashions of the era, though his budget limits his embrace of its tunes: Of the few vintage songs he can afford to license, the Walter Murphy Band’s Rimsky-Korsakov-derived “Flight ’76” gets quite a lot of play.
Making the most of his setting, the filmmaker stages his splatter centerpiece in the school, where two especially nubile students strip to their bras and are just starting to experiment with kissing when Duane intervenes. Shattering their 45s and using the shards to perforate the girls’ bodies, he decapitates them and kidnaps one of their teachers, returning to his Grand Guignol-friendly lair while some wide-lapel detectives try to find him. (Effects work is plenty “eww”-inducing but ultimately unconvincing.)
Those cops are played by actors whose laughably stiff line-readings are the strongest hint that Discopath‘s pastiche is intended to be at least semi-comic. The timing of reaction shots here, and the heavy-handed contrasts of murder scenes — where effervescent music on the dance floor cuts back and forth with backroom violence accompanied by Bruce Cameron’s moody stalker-synth score — demand snickers, and the audience for the world preem here supplied them.
But this winking tone undercuts the action, making it difficult to care about the manhunt in progress. Will cops get their man before he kills again, or will Duane keep playing with his turntables, setting severed heads atop LPs and watching joylessly as they spin? It’s hard not to feel that Gauthier cares more about mimicking the style of giallo‘s greatest hits than about telling a story.
Production Company: Durango Pictures
Cast: Jeremie Earp, Sandrine Bisson, Ivan Freud, Francois Aubin, Ingrid Falaise
Director-Screenwriter-Executive producer: Renaud Gauthier
Producer: Marie-Claire Lalonde
Director of photography: John Londono
Production designer: Sylvain Lemaitre
Music: Bruce Cameron
Costume designer: Yola Van Leeuwenkamp
Editor: Arthur Villers
No rating, 80 minutes