The idea of a cursed movie is something of a genre staple by now, from Demons to Popcorn and Midnight Movie to The Hills Run Red or tv’s Cigarette Burns there are plenty of tales of films that bring death to those who watch them, or try to find them. The latest entry into the collection La Rage du Démon, (or Fury of the Demon if you don’t don’t speak French) made it’s debut at this year’s Fantasia Festival and it’s one of the best I’ve seen.
Coming in at a fast sixty minutes the film tells the mysterious tale of La Rage du Démon, a silent film that causes madness and violence every time it’s shown. Starting with a recounting of it’s most recent showing in 2012 the film traces its history of violence and attempts to determine who made it and why it has the effect it does. Of course this is a mockumentery, and the film fictional, but the film is full of actual historical facts blended in with fiction well enough it’s often impossible to tell when the makers have strayed from the facts. The facts involve Georges Méliès, the pioneering French silent film maker, starting with the theory that it might be one of his many lost films then investigating an occult obsessed associate Victor Sicarius. There’s enough real details of Méliès life and films to make the set up believable and with many of the experts who take part being real people such as Méliès great great granddaughter and directors Christophe Gans and Alexandre Aja it’s almost impossible at times not to believe it’s all true.
Shot with a light, fast moving pace the film never gets to serious or heavy even when delving into spiritualism and various occult themes. But it never strays from the appearance of being a serious documentary either, there’s no winking to the audience, the closest it ever comes to that is the name of the last person to screen the film, Edgar A. Wallace, and that’s obscure in it’s own right.
Fabien Delage deserves a tremendous amount of credit for not only writing and directing the film, but for convincing so many academics from different fields to participate and play it straight. It lends a certain weight and believability to the proceedings. And the relatively short running time makes it feel like you’ve just watched a show on PBS,an episode of Nova perhaps.
Despite it’s subject matter, the film is never scary but it never tries to be. It is fun, entertaining and totally engrossing.