Entering into the last weekend of Fantasia Festival, I start it on Friday evening with a cozy showing of Dys-, a French-Canadian/Quebec production from right here in Montreal, set in Montreal and actually filmed in my friend’s condo building. That made it feel even more at home. I’ve been increasingly interested in Quebec film mostly because once you escape from the drama genre, it actually has some pretty decent films that I’ve seen. Nothing perfect yet but I’ve had a few surprises. For this one, its not in French but rather in English and has the leading lady with a US actress, Shannon Lark.
Dys was featured with a short at the beginning called I am Monster also starring Shannon Lark as the main actress (also co-director for this).
I am Monster is a short film at about 17 minutes about a necrophiliac called Vivienne who ventures into the morgue to violate the corpses and doesn’t really care about them. Except tonight, she meets Jason, a new corpse in the morgue who starts conversing with her. Seriously, this is a really awesome short! It was a bit weird in the beginning because its pretty funny to watch people in the audience reacting to her sex and arousal with the corpses. There’s a bit of dark humor and sexy stuff. It really is an outstanding short. If you get a chance to check it out, please do!
Moving right along, we have our main feature, Dys-!
Before you start, think about whether you know what the title, “Dys-” stands for. I figured it out and you will have the answer right at the beginning of the movie but I’m curious what thoughts you have about it. Leave me what you think it is in the comments 🙂
Director (& Writer): Maude Michaud
Cast: Shannon Lark, Alex Goldrich, Dega Lazare, Lynn Lowry
A couple, Eva (Shannon Lark) and Sam (Alex Goldrich) have suffered loss due to a miscarriage. Eva has been trying to pull herself up while pushing away Sam from the process. However, when the city is forced to shut down due an unknown virus plaguing the entire city, they are left to face each other in their own home. Except, they may have escaped the terrors outside but are they ready to face each other?
There is no doubt that Dys- is a. What makes it refreshing is that in situations like this, w would look at the terrors going on outside and I’m not saying, we don’t. Except as we see the city shutdown, Eva and Sam also show their own change as the story unfolds. We see flashbacks of the past: their relationship, life, career, family, and the secrets. We get a good look at how they become who they are now and how they evolve.
The best way to go to see Dys- is with the least amount of knowledge possible. There are shocks and thrills along the way. Although the setting is really in a condo space, it still has quite the desirable cinematic quality. Plus, they have a building intensity sort of atmosphere here as well as a brilliant soundtrack to match it. These things all contribute to how Dys- is a good movie experience. However, Dys- is full of questions from start to finish. Sometimes, you get the answers and at the end, I walked out of there thinking it was a bit on the peculiar side. The way I’d describe it would be ambitious and ambiguous. The ending and the course of events is subject to a lot of interpretation.
Why do I say ambiguous? Because to me, the plot is really not clear cut. I don’t know what the initial intentions were but there are theories that pop up and then I thought about it again and realized that it really wasn’t that because something else proves it. In the end, I think what comes into play is whether they are infected or simply who is infected because there is a lack of information and we never truly see what the virus will do. At the same time, it could also be their personalities going out of whack from everything going on. Maybe its the pressure of being with the other person who seem to have secrets and not sure how to react to each other. Maybe sometimes being alone is better or just being inside for too long is not a good thing. It might sound like I’m hating on the movie or just confused but seriously, after a few days to let it all sink it, I hold true that this one had some pretty great moments: at least gory/bloody/extreme but still it packs a good amount punch. Its not your random gory movie. Everything does happen for a reason once you sit back and let your nerves calm down from the crazy that escalates to the end. I’m going to say this, the ending still has me a bit mind-boggled but it does partially support one of my theories (which would spoil the movie if I talked about it here).
Lets take a look at the cast themselves. The characters created was rather complex. Our two main leads especially had the roles of a deeper and darker roles. Most of the characters have their own baggage and its some pretty ugly stuff. I’m perfectly okay with flawed humans though as it brings on a level of reality. Shannon Lark has the leading lady role of Eva, a model who lost her baby and wants to move on to something else. Eva gives off a weird vibe and its one that she’s really fake and sporadic. She bottles up a lot inside her and she will blow a fuse after a while. Alex Goldrich, playing her husband Sam is along the same lines. Except he wants to find a way to make their relationship work again. However, he isn’t a perfect person either and there are moments you can see that he’s actually pretty selfish as well. The question we start asking is how these two ended up with each other. Love and hate really are opposite of the spectrums and sometimes, things can get out of hand. These characters are a bit extreme in their portrayals and at times there seems a lack of continuity but I feel like it requires some of the reading beyond the lines that these two along with a third character, James (a neighbor and friend of Sam’s) of what these characters are all about. Touching a little on the supporting role of James by Dega Lazare (or Joseph Lazare), I really liked that character because although the role was small, he was also something of a lingering effect throughout.
Dys- is definitely ambitious. However, I won’t say that its a perfect horror film. There are some pretty intense moments but the story is a little on the messy/convoluted side where there’s a lot that the audience has to fill in the blanks or make your own assumptions. The characters could benefit from being developed a little bit better maybe. I’m not saying I disliked it though. I think that this movie being the director Maude Michaud’s first feature film shows us that there is a lot of promise. The atmosphere, the background music, the effects, good use of silence, the soundtrack and the premise of this story is spot on. It just needs a little work in better execution to not allow it be so confusing. Except, I sit here and wonder whether that is a hint at what the characters are: confused and lost and maybe a little unbalanced. However, I hold true that she put some pretty gory and impressively disgusting scenes in there. Sure, I walked out of this a bit lost but there was some enjoyment to be had. Although, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this if you’re all about a great clear cut story, I do think that you should give it a chance. There is definitely something here that’s worth checking out 🙂
I would give this a second viewing all on my own when I don’t have other people laughing at parts I didn’t particularly find funny. It would give me a chance to better understand it.
Whether you decide to see Dys- or not, I do highly recommend the short I Am Monster. If you ever land on it, give it 20 minutes of your time. Its pretty great! 🙂
Have you heard of Dys-? Did you have a guess as to why the title is like this? Have you seen any other Quebec horror movies?
5 thoughts on “Fantasia Film Festival 2014: Dys- (2014) and I am Monster (short 2013)”
I am Monster–director and lead actress?? Count me in. I’ll support her all the way. Great post
Thanks Cindy! I’ve never seen Shannon Lark in any else before this but she’s pretty good 🙂
Dys-lexic?? Nope. Dys-functional!
Both of these sound great, i’ll keep a look out for them!
You are awesome, Mikey! 🙂 Thats exactly it! Dys- as a prefix 😉
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