Director: Olivier Abbou
Starring: Roc LaFortune, Sean Devine, Nicole Leroux, Alex Meiner, Tim Rozon
Duration: 95 min.
Five friends returning from a wedding in Canada are driving home to the United States. Not far from the border, two customs officers stop them to check their identity. Suspicious, they take their time especially with Jalil, a man of Arab origin. The situation worsens when a customs officer finds a small bag of marijuana in the luggage.
Territories is the feature film debut from Olivier Abbou, co-written by Thibault Lang WIllar. It is a Canadian/French production filmed in the province of Quebec.
The film opens with the fantastic Death In Vegas track Dirge, which sets the stage for yet another tale of a young group who takes the wrong turn to Brutalityville. Lack of scenario originality aside, Territories is actually an effectively crafted horror/thriller that combines 70's style American genre films with modern slashers. It also takes cues from current events, Abbou's screenplay takes a healthy swipe at hot issues like Homeland Security paranoia, and the infamous Guantanamo Bay torture factory. However even with the obvious political critique on display, the film stays fixed in its rightful genre place and terrifies more than it preaches.
The film can be difficult to watch, as the innocents are helplessly subjected to highly effective torture techniques designed to break anyone down, in a makeshift backwoods Gitmo. But as disturbing as some scenes may be, this isn't quite torture porn, because most of their ordeal is psychological and a large proportion of it is handled off screen. Karim Hussain's spooky cinematography also adds much to the bleak and harrowing atmosphere on display, especially in the excellent nighttime opening sequence.
Where Territories falters is in it's various perspective switches, in an attempt perhaps to humanize the captors, the director ends up spending far too much time trying to develop them while ignoring the captives. This leaves both sides insufficiently explored, and this is made even worse by a strange and sudden shift of gears in the last act. Here Abbou completely abandons the prisoners and turns the story into an absurd mystery, with the introduction of a surprise character that would be right at home in a David Lynch film but whose subplot is largely inconsequential. Well at least you can't say that this one is predictable.
Still overall it is an intriguing effort that manages to be scarier and more thought provoking than most horror flicks. It also closes with a fine track from French indie artist Koudlam
— Bonjour Tristesse