Pandemonium managed to capture and hold onto a unique perspective on the horror of death and denial, making this a truly unforgettable story to review. The selection from France recently had its North American premiere at the 27th Fantasia International Film Festival in Montréal, Canada. The film, written and directed by Quarxx, stars Hugo Dillon, Arben Bajraktaraj, Manon Maindivide, Ophélia Kolb, and Carl Laforêt. Madness, grief, and more join forces in this truly distinctive exploration of the afterlife.
Plot of ‘Pandemonium’
Nathan (Dillon) considers himself a good man, a good friend, a good husband to his late wife. All of this is challenged when he wakes up on the cold tarmac of an isolated mountain road, unable to remember how he got there. He’s not alone though. There is another man, Daniel (Bajraktaraj), a cyclist, who is full of wild stories — stories about death, stories about horrific accidents — all of which are unsettling but only the start of Nathan’s troubles.
It soon becomes clear that he has no other choice but to continue his journey by stepping through the mysterious door that suddenly appears in front of them, as if out of nowhere. Some of the souls he finds littered along the way are too far gone, their stories too monstrous to suggest there’s any going back for them. The question is, is Nathan one of them, or has it all been a big mistake, as he seems to think?
Pandemonium manages to locate your heart and gut, twisting them both in a way that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. The film’s simple beginning is followed by horrific acts that are subtle about how monstrosity is displayed. Depth and dread are balanced in the space between Nathan and Daniel, preparing for what’s ahead. The twists shock the core, becoming frightening in what they reveal about the characters. There’s always more to each character met on screen, no matter what their initial actions or appearance show.
Moral dilemmas haunt the film, impacting how blood and brutality are consumed. Sometimes the gore and violence of horror become like products of a genre vending machine. Pandemonium has you hold onto thoughts of what darkness is within humanity. It also highlights the perspective of potential in humanity as well. There’s a theme of separating oneself from the truly monstrous through evasive dialogue or delusions of grandeur. The little girl, Jane, perfectly depicts this thanks to Manon’s acting which is brilliant in so many ways.
Monstrosity isn’t in the visual parts of this film. It reveals itself in what could be considered the most innocent. The set design and special effects only heighten the incredible storytelling that acts as a guide through the pits of Hell. Parts of the story hinted towards a mixture of religious perspectives on the afterlife and death (ex: the concept of reincarnation, the Antichrist, etc).
The lean into suicide equating to an eternity in Hell felt off compared to the dilemmas brought up by other characters’ actions. Either it was that or clarity was needed if that wasn’t the intention. In any case, the perspective on loss and grief was harrowing. It managed to provoke inner grappling with the worth of one’s time. The film managed to leave a mark, compelling the mind and thoughts of what death truly can mean in the horror genre.
‘Pandemonium’ Review Score: