Director: Renaud Gauthier
Starring: Jérémie Earp-Lavergne
Discopath (also known as Discopathe) is a rather strange film to try and pin down for a review, largely because upon first viewing you’re not really sure what you’re getting yourself into. The synopsis reads as a primarily comic one, but anyone going in expecting a straightforward comedy will be disappointed, as I think the case has been with some audiences. As a result, Discopath demands at least a second viewing – one to get to grips with it and one to really enjoy it.
Discopath is set in the 1970s (and later the early 80s) and concerns a young man, Duane Lewis (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne) living in New York who hears disco music for the first time, but far from being moved to dance…the music motivates him to kill. But his world and potential relationships are becoming ever more saturated by this new musical genre that turns him into a psychopath.
The initial premise does sound like a generic slasher with a quirky reason for the killer’s motivation, but Discopath, with it’s incredible 1970s design (if I’d not seen the date I would have easily considered it to be from that time period), high levels of gore and of course, a great soundtrack, becomes so much more. It is of course, funny throughout, including a few segments that had the whole cinema howling with laughter but there’s an exceptionally grubby overtone to it all.
For one, Jérémie Earp-Lavergne, playing Duane Lewis (or any of the other alias he takes on through the course of the film) utilises his somewhat stilted and unusual accent to great effect in earlier scenes, simultaneously balancing the naive and the sinister. This also positions him as an outsider during early scenes in New York – Duane is not like everyone else around him and so he does not experience life in the same way as them. The other actors deliver their deliberately hokey dialogue with straight faces, further adding to the effect that you’re watching a decidedly ropey 1970s slasher.
Secondly, the song that repeats throughout the film, while initially seeming a straightforward disco song soon changes to something at a near-shriek, spiralling into a madness along with the character. Perhaps more interestingly is that the music itself doesn’t change, just the circumstances around them but the film is honestly so engaging it really does seem to sway the viewer into the frame of mind they need to be in. Another well-known song is used to great effect later in the film, but I don’t want to spoil it. The poster gives a great big hint though.
Thirdly, and perhaps the largest element detracting from the moments of genuine humour are the effects. Largely produced by Remy Couture, who some may recognise as having faced legal action over his potential to cause ‘moral corruption’ (sounding eerily similar to the Video Nasty nonsense of Britain which I will never tire of ranting about) and was tried under Canadian obscenity laws for the graphic nature of the short films and effects he had made. Shorts so effective in their design they had convinced one viewer that it simply couldn’t be fake and so Couture had to provide evidence that all his actors and actresses were over 18 and that no one was hurt during their production. Good publicity for an effects maker you might think, but no one needs the massive legal costs that come with such a thing. As you can imagine, however, the effects in the film are really good, and pretty sick.
Overall, I would say Discopath is an incredibly dark, but occasionally very funny film that will divide an audience – delighting some and alienating others. I’m very glad I’m in the first camp and I look forward to more of Renaud Gauthier’s work, particularly if it is as inventive and well-designed as this.