Saturday, October 13, 2012

The 'Psychotic Killer Mockumentary' Genre Marches On: "Silence, ca tue! (Silence, We Are Shooting!) (2008)

Comparisons between the Belgian film "Silence ca tue!" and "Man Bites Dog" are a given. Both involve the filming of brutal crimes as part of their own respective documentaries, with a psychotic as its main subject. I did not find much to like about "Man Bites Dog," and "Silence ca tue" is not without its own problems.

Chris (Christophe Lamot), his sound guy Michel (Christophe Michelet), and cameraman Nico (Nicolas Anseroul) are shooting a "live" film, not a documentary. Chris is having trouble making a film of his own in the closed world of Belgian cinema, buys a gun, and takes his partners Morti (Christophe Mortier), Kevin (Kevin Van Nuffel), and Francois (Francois Huntzinger) to see a producer Chris met once. The producer doesn't remember Chris, has the gun pulled on him, and flees. He falls down the stairs and dies, and the group must decide what to do. What follows is a rising body count, as Chris (and his friends) start murdering other people, since they have already been responsible for one death, and all the mayhem is captured in its shaky-cam glory.

"Silence ca tue!" occupies the same bizarre world that "Man Bites Dog" and "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" occupy. Murderous psychotics are the subject, but the camera never blinks, and the technical support staff captures all the violence without raising a protest. The problem with this type of film (especially this one) is that despite some very funny dark humor, the viewer has absolutely no one to associate with or cheer for. Chris and his friends are despicable, and this is tolerable mostly because we are not stuck with these people for any longer than sixty-five minutes, sparing us any more time in this nightmare.

The biggest positive here is Lamot's direction. Sure, the shaky-cam "Blair Witch" type look has been done to death, but rarely as well as this. Most of the violence does occur off screen, I think this was banned in Belgium and France more for some fleeting shots of a hardcore porn mag, and naming some possibly (?) real film makers who get murdered, but the camera work is very natural and documentary-looking without sending me into the bathroom for a fist full of Dramamine.

The dark comic moments work, too: asking the film's composer to follow them around and compose the soundtrack live, drawing straws to see who will dispose of the bodies, and everyone's nonchalant reactions to the killings. The cast is good across the board, the conversations sound improvised and true without drawing attention to themselves by spitting out unnecessary exposition. Some characters appear, are not named, and disappear, just like in real life.

"Silence, Ca Tue!" will appeal more to the "Man Bites Dog" fan than anyone. If you liked that film, you're certain to like this one. (* * *) out of five stars.