Horror blogger Ludovic (Alexis Wawerka) is caught trespassing in a graveyard while taking spooky selfies for his blog. While waiting for the police to show up, the grave keeper (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) shows Ludovic his album of the tombs in the place and the strange stories attached to the person who wound up there. Anthology ahoy!
Running a touch under 76 minutes and managing to cram in five stories in addition to the wraparound framework, Necrologies fairly zips through its tales and if there’s a particular segment that isn’t to your liking then the next one is going to be with you before you know it. As with all films of this type, there are tales that work better than some but for me the ratio of hits to misses in this collection of mini chillers is pleasingly high.
Kicking things off with The Call Of Death, a woman receives increasingly menacing phone calls from a mystery man who seems to know an awful lot about her. It’s a good example of the single location thriller and the suspense is pleasingly ramped up as the plot plays with our protagonist’s thoughts of who the threat may be and indeed where/when it’s going to come. The reveal is satisfyingly out there and gruesome to boot.
The second story is The Beast, which I thought was the weakest of the lot, not because it’s particularly badly made – it most certainly isn’t – but the set-up is overly familiar and plays out more or less how you’d expect it to, save for a jarring blast of gore at the very end. Basically, a guy out for a drive in the country sees an injured woman crawling along at the side of the road. At the same time there’s something very nasty in the woods ripping folk to bits. You don’t think whatever’s causing the carnage could be…? In a word, yes.
The performances are decent and there’s at least an attempt to inject some sympathy into the piece but the fact that you’ve probably seen this before, maybe more than once, doesn’t help matters. Even so, I had expected there to be a massive twist – there was so much obvious monster flick box-ticking going on that I felt sure I was being set up for the rug to be pulled from under me – but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
Necrologies rallies big time with the third tale, the very funny and genuinely demented The Return Of The Lizard Men, which is a found footage tale of a duck-worshipping cult (I’m not making this up) attempting to halt the rise of our reptilian overlords (I’m not making this up) via means of a sacrificial ceremony (I’m not making this up).
This takes all of those well-worn found footage tropes and has tremendous fun with them, as well as taking playful swipes at the hierarchies and practices found within outlandish sects. Even a certain highly regarded film festival is the butt of one of the gags so nothing in this chucklesome takedown of quasi-religious factions is, ahem, sacred.
The amusement continues with A Hell Of A Bargain, in which persistent businessman De Wacker’s over-zealous attempts to convince an old woman to sell her house go drastically awry. That’s the “accidentally killing her” type of drastically awry. Still, there’s only one witness to the crime and that’s the old dear’s pet bird, Pozu, whose cage was covered up the entire time in any case. Only there’s a reason the cage was covered up and Pozu isn’t a bird…
Essentially a gory Tom and Jerry variant with some hilarious puppet monster work, this section of the film is the light on scares but heavy on entertaining, escalating comic violence as De Wacker and Pozu battle each other with various items of household equipment. Pozu may not be the most sophisticated – or indeed realistic – of creatures but the look of him is terrific and his antics certainly had me laughing. Oh, and there’s a Linnea Quigley cameo in this too for a little extra horror cred.
The final instalment in this compendium of creepy chronicles is The Eye Of Taal, which focuses on an artist explaining the inspiration and the history behind her work to a dealer. In some ways, it’s an odd choice to round out the movie as it doesn’t deliver the riotous crescendo you’d be expecting. Instead, it’s an artfully shot, moody piece which gives us an interesting bogeyman and, granted, delivers on the gore but it’s more about atmosphere than the slam-bang climax that would send the fans home talking excitedly about it.
Still, it’s a striking short and the sort of teaser that would perhaps work well if it were opened out to a full feature. The Eye Of Taal’s ultimate reveal makes perfect sense given the build-up but it’s a relatively low-key, if technically impressive, sign-off considering its place in the line-up.
A genuinely (un)pleasant surprise from a group of undoubtedly talented filmmakers, Necrologies is a consistently strong, engaging anthology, as much as home with delivering on laughs as it does on the scares. Its brief running time works very much in its favour, meaning even the less successful stories have little chance of outstaying their welcome. It’s a breezy blast of bloodshed from across the Channel. Vive La France!