9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX (OCTOBER 21ST)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Ok so this isn't really a horror film. In my defence, The 9th Life of Louis Drax is labelled a supernatural thriller' and is directed by Alexandre Aja, the Director behind Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake (and Mirrors, but let's pretend that isn't true). Plus, the trailer hinted looked like it might contain some level of spook too. However, as I discovered, it isn't – although it probably contains just about enough supernatural sequences for me to count it as one of my #31daysofhalloween movies!
The film only had a very limited release in this country, despite an impressive cast including Jamie Dornan and Aaron Paul and it didn't exactly wow those who did go and see it. The book is generally very well liked but as we've seen with recent adaptations (cough* The Snowman) that doesn't always guarantee a good movie.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax tells the story of a young accident prone boy (called Louis Drax obviously) who falls of a cliff and despite being fished out of the ocean and rushed to hospital, is pronounced dead on arrival. However, two hours later he returns from the dead (not as a zombie) but quickly lapses into a coma. This medical miracle attracts the interest of innovative doctor (Dornan) who brings him under his care in his fancy hospital. Louis' distraught (and hot) mother is convinced that her and her son have a psychic connection and whilst an subtly smouldering Dornan investigates, the police do their best to track down Louis' father, who has vanished and is suspected of pushing the boy off the cliff.
There's a whole lot going on this movie and whilst some of it is intriguing and engaging, it's scattergun approach means that it only reaches a certain emotional depth. It's part love-story, part black comedy, part supernatural thriller, part police procedural, part coming-of-age tale, part philosophical drama. It's a brave and commendable attempt to fuse all of these into a singular movie but ultimately it's a bit of a failed experiment. There are too many loose threads here. Too many characters and stories that are disconnected or amount to nothing in particular. A little more focus on some key relationships/plot points would have helped a great deal. It can't be criticised for a lack of ideas, quite the opposite. It's just that tethering these ideas together into some cohesive story proves quite troublesome.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy this. Dornan does ok but it's the performance of Aiden Longworth as the eponymous hero-of-sorts that steals the show. He's a confusing mixture of preciously bright, intensely vulnerable and incredibly annoying that kids in movies like this invariably are. But to his credit, he does it very well. His exchanges with his child therapist provide some great lines too. The always brilliant Aaron Paul doesn't disappoint either and also worth a mention is Sarah Gadon, who carefully portrays Louis' complicated and fragile mother.
Visually, the film is rather beautiful shot too thanks to Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, a long-time Aja collaborater. Louis Drax has a sedate, almost dream-like vibe to it for large parts. There are some genuinely affecting underwater and dream sequences tucked away within here. However, it's easy on the eye yet ultimately it disappoints a little the further we go on. There's a plot twist which isn't difficult to see coming and the constant use of flashbacks – whilst all engaging – provide little room for any real sense of tension or suspense by the third act. Once the reveal is made the game is over and the film doesn't really have anywhere to go after that. That's fine in a film like The Sixth Sense, which is able to cram in a lot of emotional weight and scares before it's big final – and successful reveal, however Louis Drax doesn't offer the same level of scares of emotion. To be fair, scaring you isn't really it's aim. It's a supernatural mystery thriller that whilst offering an interesting mixture of occasional mystery and appealing visuals, ultimately fails to thrill.