Pandemonium Image


By Terry Sherwood | November 22, 2023

Genre portmanteau films flourished in the seventies and eighties with Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath, Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, The House that Dripped Blood, and Dead of Night, plus various other companies’ productions meant to capitalize.   This anthology work would feature a wrap-around story with the usual three or four different stories, sometimes by different directors. Pandemonium is a contemporary French film written and directed by someone who calls themselves Quarxx. They build on the legacy, turning it on its head with profound directness of revenge, atonement, and destruction with devastating screen presence.

The picture opens starkly on a bleak, lonely mountain roadway during winter. Standing in this landscape, staring at an overturned vehicle motionless, Nathan (Hugo Dillion) contemplates that he has had an accident and is lucky. Daniel (Arben Bajraktara) appears, and the two engage in startling dialogue that reveals that both are, in fact, dead people. Daniel has come to terms with it more, as he will miss his family. Nathan is upset at the fact that he is still young and doesn’t believe it until he sees his own corpse in the car wreck.   Daniel drags the body out only to have now believing Nathan ask him to face away from him. Nathan reveals that he killed his wife in a mercy killing due to disease, yet she did not give her permission.    Two obelisks appear at opposite ends of the road, one clearly marked as Heaven and the other as Hell.   The two reasons they are to pass through these to paradise or torment when the godly Daniel is unsuccessful at going to Heaven, more secrets come out that he was drunk riding his motorcycle and killing a young child. Nina (Manon Maindivide) appears, questioning them and eventually screaming, only to be thrown into one of the portals.

In the portmanteau style, this would be the wrap-around story, which is, in a sense, as Nathon explores Hell. He is confronted by a demon who leads him to what he says will become a simple sufferer after forty centuries when he is released into a dark, foggy landscape where he communicates with tormented bodies.

“…the two engage in startling dialogue that reveals that both are, in fact, dead people.”

The film shifts to Nina (Manon Maindivide), who has a monster Tony (Carl Laforêt) in the basement, which is manipulated into parental and sisterly psychotic revenge through domination and insipid behaviour resulting in a choreographed ending for all that is only bloody.

The most striking story is about bullying and a woman, Julia (Ophélia Kolb), who is unable to accept the death of her daughter Chloe (Sidwell Weber) even after she finds the body in the bloody bathtub.   In flashbacks with restraint, Cloe explains how she is at her end with the school bullying and is destroyed. Julie tells her all will be well and to make it through. The dialogue and the actors do this moment with the vibrant, restrained voice of one who is truly too weak to defend themselves anymore. It is brilliant and odd when Julie sets up Chloe’s corpse in a chair, talks to it, and asks what wants for dinner. In the striking image, Chloe’s body randomly slumps, twists, and falls to the floor to the horror of her mother, who finds it triggering a crushing realization.

The ending finds Nathan and the Demon facing literally a new Hell and an eternal mission as a form of torment.

Pandemonium is a sub-titled French film with bite, sadness, the overwhelming power of grief, and the terror of the unknown. That unknown is the simple question of the afterlife.   The acting, the relationship with the audience, the landscape, and the soaring, slightly soundscape music all make this an anthology film with a difference.   The difference is it’s not the horror or the extreme as French Extreme cinema has in its repertoire. Still, the horror of the soul, especially the bullying section, which contains graphic school violence, making one realize that horror can be small, devastating, and personal that cuts deeper than any blade.

Pandemonium (2023)

Directed and Written: Quarxx

Starring: Arben Bajraktaraj, Hugo Dillon, Ophélia Kolb, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Pandemonium Image

"…builds on the legacy turning it on its head with profound directness of revenge atonement, and destruction..."

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