Posted May 31, 2011 by editor in Film Reviews

5150 Elm’s Way Review

5150 Elm’s Way is a Canadian horror film, which is great to see as it’s something of a rarity since David Cronenberg left the country to make films in Hollywood. The horror genre is going through a renaissance right now with many fine films being produced by a new crop of young directors. Having recently seen the trailer to 5150 on another DVD my interest was piqued in this new horror film.

The film follows Yannick Bérubé (Marc-André Grondinas) as he moves to a new town after being accepted to its film school. His first assignment is to document his neighbourhood, which leads him to cycle down a quiet little dead-end street called Elm’s Way. Whilst riding he takes quite a full-on spill trying to avoid a cat which scrapes him up and mangles the bike badly. Seeing a taxi in a driveway, he approaches the man outside the house hoping to get a lift home. When the man is not forthcoming with an offer, Yannick asks him to call a cab. Yannick then makes the poor decision of entering the man’s house, a choice that will see his life irreparably changed forever.

5150 Elm’s Way is a superbly original horror film that genuinely kept me guessing throughout, taking one strange turn after another. There’s a strong influence from a little known American psychological thriller called Frailty. Both films contain characters that genuinely believe their killing spree is a righteous pursuit having been chosen to eradicate the world of evil.

The spectacular aspect of this film is its invigorating unpredictability which kept me baffled right up until the very end – something that doesn’t happen often enough these days. The narrative is cut into three parts as Yannick’s role in the house slowly grows throughout, from the typical early escape attempts to the later possibility that his being in their life has a far deeper and more meaningful reason. Once a chess game begins between Yannick and the father, Jacques Beaulieu (Normand D’Amour), the narrative is set on a frightening course to a revelation that’s truly horrifying. Far from a conventional horror film the truly disturbing imagery comes late in the film as Jacques reveals exactly what his 10-year project has been.

This isn’t a film to make you jump out of your seat as it doesn’t contain many scenes with shock value. The horror is far more psychological in nature; the viewer is encouraged to share Yannick’s desperate attempts to escape before trying to understand his situation. The performances are all compelling with Élodie Larivière, as the youngest daughter, proving strangely menacing. The character is highly reminiscent of the freaky twins in The Shining, even echoing them in her voicelessness. Both Marc-André Grondinas as Yannick and Normand D’Amour as Jacques Beaulieu are equally strong, ultimately going head-to-head to see who is actually righteous.

The cinematography by François Dutil is luminous throughout, the highlight being some highly imaginative dream sequences. The set design is also superb with the room that Yannick is held in resembling, at times, an actual living organism which bleeds. The design reaches its zenith once we get down below the house as Jacques’ workspace is a revelation that you’ll struggle to forget in a hurry.

5150 Elm’s Way may not be a horror classic of the future but it will undoubtedly find a cult audience over the coming years. Every facet of the film is strong, making it far more than a run of the mill horror flick. The highly original script performed with aplomb by its excellent ensemble cast really delivers the goods. The narrative is marvelously layered and never slacks in terms of pace whilst always revealing a little more as we proceed. 5150 Elm’s Way is as much a psychological thriller as it is a horror film given its intense concentration on characters in confined spaces. All in all I strongly recommend this film to all fans of Polanski or later Hitchcock as it’ll have you pulling your hair out attempting to solve its baffling puzzle.

Aled Jones