I was in Montreal this past weekend. A weekend when, if I were in Chicago, I could have attended The Massacre, a 24-hour horror film marathon. Either Montreal was not having a 24-hour horror marathon, or I am inept at searching for such things among French language websites. I did find P=ωρ L’Energie Sombre (pronounced, P=omega•rho Dark Energy), which seems to have spectacularly failed to meet its fundraising goal on IndieGoGo, but must have been funded anyway. They speak French in Montreal. Did you know that? Well, they do. In all of Quebec as a matter of fact. (that’s the province that Montreal is in) (oh, provinces are like Canadian states) (I should also mention that Montreal and Quebec are in Canada.) (you know what? this is a horror blog, not a North American geography blog) (Canada is in North America). Where was I? Quebec! That’s where P=ωρ L’Energie Sombre was shot. Therefore, it’s in French. A language that I do not speak. Of course, I went to see it. (Keep that in mind as you read my synopsis.)
Two people see an old video of a panicky, disheveled man crying into the camera and explaining something (that was probably important to the plot) before he is thrown around by invisible forces. They decide to make a documentary (hence, most of the film is found footage) of their efforts in trying to figure out what happened to him. They enlist the help of the APPA Paranormal Investigations team to go to a few haunted sites in Quebec (or maybe one is in the U.S. since they speak English there). I think the guy from the old video may have been researching these sites or specific people who are believed to be haunting the sites? APPA (a real-life company) consists of Jezebelle, Luka, and Tom (or, maybe, Dom). Dom doesn’t think the documentarians are taking things seriously enough and is pretty frosty towards them. At the first site, a cemetery, they set up their mics for recording electronic voice phenomena and whatnot, and the woman/doc host goes off to explore on her own with her lapel mic still “hot” (industry term for “on”). She soon screams bloody murder and everyone runs to find her on the ground foaming at the mouth and convulsing. She apparently has a speedy recovery which she (probably) explains when her doc partner records her returning from the hospital. Back on the job, everybody heads out to the second site, a haunted house. Crazy paranormal shit happens at the house. A person disappears. A new person appears briefly and he’s a ghost. At the house, the audience is treated to the evil entity POV cam. This trippy plot device lets us see what the characters cannot and hear evil entity yell-whispering creepily. Once they lose their second crew member, they hightail it outta there! They probably talk about what they should do (I definitely heard “police”). But somehow end up at their third haunted site, an abandoned school(?), to look for their friends. More crazy shit happens. More evil entity POV happens. More people disappear, leaving only the doc camera guy, Etienne. Cut to: the police interviewing him with their own camera. But he’s not talking. Because he’s too freaked out by what happened!
Was P=ωρ L’Energie Sombre good? It wasn’t bad. It had some very effective jump scares that (disappointingly) relied too heavily on loud soundtrack stings. It had some very creepy shots/scenes. The light-mounted doc camera cast a circle of light in front of it during the dark scenes that were disorienting and anxiety provoking (in a good way). The shadows were so deep-dark, that I was constantly expecting something to jump out of them. Leonardo Fuica, the director, also employed GoPro cameras that were equally effective in ratcheting up the fear. The GoPro shots were darker (and grainier) still, keeping the fight-or-flight response going. And the apparition that Etienne sees was unlike any other I can remember seeing. It is solid flesh and bone until it is disturbingly not quite so. The biggest gripe that I have with the film is it’s lack of adherence to its own found footage conceit. If a film is found footage, then it HAS TO remain so. We cannot see from the evil entity’s perspective because, where the fuck would that “footage” be “found”? Furthermore, at the end, when the cops are interviewing Etienne, there are security camera shots and interview camera shots, but also close ups and two-shots of the cops? Who shot that? Finally, I wonder who scored this found footage that we, the audience, is watching? Maybe this comes back to my perennial question, “who edited this?” I guess that if a found footage film can have an editor, it can have a scorer too.
THE FINAL CUT: P=ωρ L’Energie Sombre is a decent found footage offering that diminishes its impact by straying from its own format. It offers some effective scares throughout but may not have enough impress those who have seen better found footage films.