Directed by Renaud Gauthier
A deeply disturbed man driven to kill, the character of Duane Lewis (Jeremie Earp-Lavergne) in Renaud Gauthier’s Discopath, would probably have attended Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago way back in July of 1979, gleefully stomping on and burning Bee Gees vinyl with all the other drunk rock ‘n rollers. Naturally, after witnessing his father being electrocuted by their home stereo system as the four-on-the-floor bass thump of disco pounded away, Duane now has quite a disdain for the club jams of the period.
Enjoying its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Discopath starts off in 1976 Manhattan, focusing on the blue collar Duane as he tries to fit in and get some action amidst what is probably the most annoying musical trend in this country’s long history of annoying musical trends. A spark flies between Duane and a sexy roller girl who takes him out dancing at a club called Seventh Heaven. Inviting Duane to a nightclub is kind of like asking a great white shark to come to a beach party, and before too long their first date is cut short. On the surface, disco music itself is so fun and upbeat, promising a wild night of dancing and polyester dreams – but the underground seediness that occurred behind the scenes in those clubs was very dark. Reflecting this, Duane’s first victim is literally killed underneath the dancefloor as everyone above her dances the night away.
Fleeing to Montreal after the murder, Discopath completely resets, moving from English to French and jumping ahead a few years to 1980. Duane, now known as Martin Lopez, works in an all girls school where everyone thinks he’s a mute. Two rebellious students start spinning records in their dorm and Martin just can’t help himself, decapitating the girls and digging shards of 45s into their torsos (and … elsewhere) in what becomes the film’s goriest sequence.
The effects work will and should make the uninitiated a little squeamish, taking on a level of realism that would be hard to outdo. Oddly, Discopath was filmed in Montreal but the effects work was created by Remy Couture who was found not guilty of violating Canadian obscenity laws back in 2012. Couture and Gauthier are not corrupting morals at all; yet, it’s safe to assume that disco did.
Truth be told, the gore in the film is mostly on par with what you’d find in most ‘80s slashers. The violence is matched with manic intensity but it doesn’t become too grating or ever last long enough to really get under your skin. Gauthier doesn’t rub your face in it, and one bizarre sequence featuring male nudity and a terrorizing DJ set is there to shock but also to show that Martin has become completely deranged. His kill switch is now permanently on and activated.
The realism of the effects also add to the crime scene setups when the police begin to investigate. What would have been yesterday’s news in New York City is the biggest story in Canada, but cops in both cities are hot on the killer’s trail. Unfortunately, the actors playing the investigators are all pretty low rent, not seeming to realize that they’re not making a low budget parody. The New York cops, especially, give hammed up performances that completely take you out of the film. Gauthier must not have told them what kind of movie they were making and it shows. This highlights a flaw of Discopath and a problem with most exploitation homages to ‘70s and ‘80s horror: The actors in those original films weren’t trying to act badly, they were just bad actors. The directors probably would have paid John Travolta to star if they could have afforded him back then. At times, Discopath doesn’t know if it should take itself seriously and some of the actors seem to act badly on purpose. As a result, the cops and investigators are the worst part of the film because they remind you this is all poking fun which undermines the great production value and high concept that make Discopath such a fine entry into the genre as a whole.
3 out of 5