Watching someone being tortured and executed during a live stream. Some people are willing to pay money to see it as it happens live. A lot of money. Are the bystanders as guilty as the executioner? Which part of the screen is morally worse? “Snuff livestreaming” and its consequences are on Pascal Plante’s menu “Les Chambres Rouges” (Red Rooms)which made its North American premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
The trial of “The Demon of Rosemont,” Ludovic Chevalier (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), is ongoing in the courts of Montreal, Quebec, for the horrific acts he is accused of. Chevalier’s crimes involve kidnapping, holding against one’s will, sexual abuse causing bodily harm, murder and dismembering the bodies of three teenage girls. To add to these atrocities, he streamed it all live in what are called “Red Rooms”, where shady people can pay large sums of money to be part of the virtual audience.
Two of the victims’ torture/murder videos are used as evidence in court, while the body of the youngest girl has been found, but her video is missing. In the audience at the trial is Kelly-Anne (Juliette Gariépy), who is absolutely obsessed with Chevalier and the case. She befriends Clémentine (Laurie Babin), also appearing at the trial, claiming that the accused is innocent and framed. Is Ludovic Chevalier really “The Demon of Rosemont”? Why is Kelly-Anne so consumed by him and his crimes? She’s about to get more involved in this case than you could ever imagine.
Before Screening, Writer/Director Pascal Plante, who was at Fantasia with most of his film crew, claimed that as much as he knew how bizarre that sounded, he wanted “this movie to haunt us” long after its end credits. He was not wrong.
What begins as a courtroom-based crime/drama story gradually shifts its focus to Kelly-Anne and her obsession with the case, rising in a comforting crescendo to a stunning climax. Numerous lengthy scenes are shot in one take, with the camera panning from angle to angle, engulfing the audience in the raw emotion and discomfort of the context.
Plante manages to create interest and tension through captivating courtroom speeches, but especially with the focus on his main character. What makes her sleep in dark alleys overnight to make sure she gets to the courtroom early enough to get a seat for the trial? How does she know so much about macabre videos? Why is it also focusing on one of the victim’s mothers? These questions are answered in Plante’s tense finale.
Despite not revealing any visual violence or gore, the film thrives on destroying the psyche of viewers with heart-wrenching sound and devastating performances from those watching the tapes. Screaming, yelling, and fainting are all very effective at playing with your imagination without exposing anything. Graphic, visual horror is not the main focus of Plante’s intentions, nor does he fail to grasp the gravity of the sordid crimes at hand. To end it all with a haunting bow, a haunting soundtrack composed by Dominique Plante adds to the heavy grip that “Les Chambres Rouges” manages to hold the audience.
Juliette Gariépy carries this film on her shoulders as she plays her first leading role in a feature film. While the audience wonders if Chevalier is the real culprit behind the “Red Room” murders, how Kelly-Anne navigates her life and passion for the “Rosemont Demon” case is the real mystery highlighted.
A part-time model and full-time online poker player, he lives his life in the same stoic and emotionless way he plays the card game: everything is calculated and he doesn’t believe in luck. When he meets Clémentine, she allows him to date despite her disdain for her, but he gradually grows closer to the very different young woman, revealing a more human side of her.
Gariépy’s performance is stellar, from her phlegmatic self in the first half of the story to an increasingly vulnerable state of mind due to her involvement in dark affairs. Let’s hope this wasn’t her last appearance as a lead on the silver screen.
From a courtroom drama to a gut-wrenching thriller, Pascal Plante’s film “Les Chambres Rouges” definitely deserves all the hype it is getting. Don’t expect a visually visceral horror film; you will be disappointed. Head into this haunting experience with the expectations of a meticulously crafted story, impressive filmmaking skills, riveting performances and a plot that will transport you from the disturbing but safe context of the courtroom to the very real and dangerous world surrounding his murder case.
You’ll keep changing your mind about who the real villain is in this story, and that’s what makes ‘Red Rooms’ so gripping, earning a solid 4 out of 5.”Les Chambres Rouges” will hit theaters in Quebec on August 11 and soon to other markets as it makes the festival rounds.