Deep Fear, 2022.
Directed by Grégory Beghin.
Starring Victor Meutelet, Sofia Lesaffre, Joseph Olivennes, and Kassim Meesters.
Paris, the eighties. Three students decide to celebrate their graduation with a visit to the Paris Catacombs when they discover the legendary 717 Bunker.
As Above, So Below proved the dramatic potential of staging a horror film in the Parisian Catacombs way back in 2014, and now Belgian director Grégory Beghin (Losers Revolution) offers up his own closer-to-home riff on the subject, swapping out the aforementioned found footage treatment for a more conventionally styled genre romp.
Though Deep Fear ultimately falls short of delivering a satisfying resolution, for at least half its runtime it’s a laudably claustrophobic exercise elevated by both its oppressive atmosphere and a committed performance from lead Sofia Lesaffre.
In late-1980s Paris, three students – Sonia (Sofia Lesaffre), Max (Kassim Meesters), and Henry (Victor Meutelet) – celebrate their graduation in the most natural of means, by visiting the local catacombs for a night of revelry and exploration. However, before long the trio and their guide Ramy (Joseph Olivennes) find themselves fighting for their lives against an ancient force residing in the subterranean maze.
Though Beghin’s film takes a little while to get going, if you’ve not read some of the more “generous” synopses of the movie’s plot you’ll likely have little idea where it’s going. Beghin does a respectable job slow-building unease in the early stretches, especially as the leads are antagonised by a group of local skinheads, whose presence will likely only further throw audiences off from what’s awaiting them in the story’s second half.
Without giving too much away, it’s fair to say that the mid-point narrative turn will be relatively divisive; it’s a twist that transforms Deep Fear from a taut and grounded suspense excursion into something more heightened and, intended or not, campy.
Furthermore, the forces stalking the kids are concealed for the bulk of the movie, as will surely frustrate some, and only in the final 15-or-so minutes does it finally give itself over fully to the gonzo intensity you may be expecting.
What anchors Deep Fear for much of its runtime, however, is a stellar performance from Sofia Lesaffre as our embattled protagonist Sonia; she’s a dab hand at playing traumatised and taps slyly into the racist abuse that Sonia has evidently endured for much of her life. It would’ve been interesting to see the film explore the toxicity of ’80s French society in greater depth, yet as a character gloss it’s still very much welcome.
Yet Beghin unfortunately seems to have boxed himself in at film’s end and, bereft of an interesting way to wrap things up, settles for a generically cynical conclusion; one that’s sure to leave audiences feeling that the solid work of the first two acts has been rather undone.
Deep Fear is aggressively watchable for at least its first half and even darkly funny in parts, yet never really adds up to much we’ve not seen done better before. Though skillfully made, well-acted, and appreciably lean at just 80 minutes, Deep Fear squanders its promise with a misjudged third act and woefully lousy ending.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.