27th Oct2013

Frightfest 2013: ‘Discopath’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jeremie Earp-Lavergne, Katharine Cleland, Ingrid Falaise, Pierre Lenoir, Ivan Freud | Written and Directed by Renaud Gauthier

Discopath

I’ve said it many times before and I’ve no doubt I’ll say it many times again, but Canadians know how to make damn good horror flicks and guess what? They also know how to do great retro-grindhouse flicks too! Yes Discopath, the tale of a man turned to murder by the beat, is another fantastic genre flick from the land that brought us He Knows You’re Alone, My Bloody Valentine and the more recent Antisocial.

Writer/director Renaud Gauthier made his name as a music video director, so it should come as no surprise that music features heavily in his first feature film, Discopath, an epic tale of trauma and turntables:

It’s 1976, Donna Summer tops the charts and everyone believes in mirror balls. Except Manhattan burger cook Duane Lewis who goes psycho when he hears the pulsating rhythm of Disco. Unable to control his maniac impulses that stem from childhood trauma, Duane turns his local Seventh Heaven nightclub into a splatter Disco Inferno. With NY detective Jack Stephens in hot pursuit Duane heads to Montreal where he lays low as a technician at a religious girl’s school overseen by a strict nun headmistress and a priest with a roving eye for the young lovelies in their cute uniforms. But no one can avoid the power of Disco for too long and before you can sing ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ by Kiss, Duane enters another Boogie Wonderland of slaughter. At first you’ll be afraid, you’ll be petrified…

There have been many attempts at re-capturing a bygone era in cinema, especially with the current trend of “faux grindhouse” cinema but there aren’t that many movies that are committed to recreating the decade they’re set in as Discopath. Director Renaud Gauthier obviously has a passion for the late 70s/early 80s (who doesn’t to be honest) and that shines through on screen – what’s even more surprising is that Gauthier and his cinematographer John Londono shot the entire film with RED cameras and added the authentic grain look in post-production!

The film itself is an homage to the slasher movies of the decade, complete with some utterly ridiculous and utterly beautiful gore. There are decapitations, death by 7″ record, stabbings and a fall from a building that results in what can only be described as a gooey mess – all created by FX man Remy Couture who you may remember was charged with, and later cleared of, violating Canadian obscenity laws back in 2012. But Discopath is more than just a slasher movie, there are nods to films of the era (such as one of Gauthier’s favourite films Taxi Driver) and I also saw shades of the 70s European “schoolgirls in peril” genre that proliferated exploitation cinema in that era. Discopath is also a fun, if somewhat cheesy (can’t you say that about most 80s slasher movies) movie in its own right; and as with the other Frightfest Halloween All-Nighter film Patrick, there are undoubtedly shades of Brain DePalma and Dario Argento – you just have to look at the drawn out murder at the Seventh Heaven nightclub, as the victim crawls for her life under the very dance floor she’d just been boogying on to see that!

Of course you can’t have a disco movie without a disco soundtrack and Gauthier, a musician in his own right, teams up with Bruce Cameron (throwing in some very familiar tracks by the likes of KISS and KC & the Sunshine Band) for a score that, like the visual style, fits the era perfectly and works as both a horror score and a funky disco soundtrack. Here’s hoping Gauthier makes good on his word and releases the Discopath soundtrack on vinyl next year.

The second disco-themed horror I’ve watched this month – the first being The Disco ExorcistDiscopath is unlike its 70s-set brethren in that it plays things straight. Just as the soundtrack is an affectionate pastiche of the music of the time, the film is too. This is not an attempt as self-knowing parody, there’s no irony, this IS for all intents and purposes a slasher movie from 1981. Gauthier has even found himself a leading man, Jeremie Earp-Lavergne, who plays his character as if he could have stepped straight out of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (and I mean that in a good way, I may be one of the few people who actually like that flick).

Given the success of Discopath it would seem Canada are two-for-two on disco slashers. Double-bill with Prom Night anyone?

***** 5/5

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