Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Benoît Decaillon, Edouard Audouin, Virginia Michaud, Camille Berthomier
Directed by Julien & Benoit Decaillon
Ah, style. It’s one of those things that you either have or you don’t; one cannot fake style, especially when it comes to filmmaking. Sure, there are tricks you can pull out to try and make it seem like you know what you’re doing and you’re informed about what works and what doesn’t, but in the end it’s just something you have to get for it to work. And if you can say anything about Sodium Babies, its that it gets it, man.
When we first caught a whiff of this flick it was hard to find a decent synopsis that really explained what it was about; now that I’ve seen it I can clarify at least that. After returning home from the Army in 1973, Maurice (Decaillon) takes some especially potent hash and has some sort of bizarre flashback in which he’s being chased by a dog, which leads him to shoot and kill his beloved girlfriend. Now cooling his heels in a mental institution, he is soon sprung by a nefarious group of hooligans lead by a ghoul named Max (Audouin).
For the purposes of this particular vampire mythology, ghouls are men and women who are given the blood of a vampire, which allows them to have all the vamps strengths but still get around during the day, taking care of business the bloodsuckers can’t do themselves due to their photosensitivity. Though it sounds ideal, they don’t need to sleep or eat and yet get incredibly strong, without a stead supply of their master’s blood they’re useless. So they are, in essence, slaves. Or so Maurice believes.
For thirty years Maurice, now dubbed Dead Dog, has done the dirty work of a vampire known as Prince until one day another vampire comes along and shows Dead Dog just how twisted his loyalties have been all this time. Then comes the revenge. ..
Though Sodium Babies is not the goriest of horror films, indeed it’s really more of a hyper-stylized crime film than anything else, there’s still a good place for this in the heart of horror fans looking for something different. My main complaint is that for a while things are making pretty good sense, then all of a sudden you get the feeling the filmmakers realized this and purposefully started to get more and more obtuse. It’s frustrating to be able to follow along with a film then suddenly be lost and unsure of where you’re going or why, which is the point where Sodium Babies becomes all about style and very little about substance.
Such things can be overlooked, however, since the actual plot itself isn’t terribly deep anyway. You’re basically getting a very personal view of one man’s journey through the life of being a near-remorseless ghoul, killing families on a whim at the order of a mysterious vampire, and the redemption that always seems just out of his reach, so things aren’t always going to be cut and dry. We’re told the story from his point of view and events don’t always happen the way he actually remembers them.
Great performances populate Sodium Babies, but Edouard Audouin as Max really steals the show from the first moment he’s on screen. Whether he’s banging out a kicking dance number in the heart of the disco era or hamming it up as a cheesy game show host (it’ll make a bit more sense when you see it), Audouin chews scenery like it’s coated in a delicious desert topping and easily stands out among the cast.
I need to make mention of the music, too, as its an integral part of what makes Sodium Babies so much its own movie. It’s original music from top to bottom and it all works perfectly in its particular scene; such a rarity for an indie film to have music that actually fits! During the end credits they even make it a point to play a snippet of the music while it’s being credited on-screen, something I’d love to see more of in the future.
If you’re not picky about linear storylines and have a sweet tooth for style, Sodium Babies will give you a nice, full feeling at the end of the day. Though it could benefit from a bit of fat trimming its nevertheless a very impressive debut for the Brothers Decaillon and hopefully the first of many films from this talented sibling team.
3 1/2 out of 5
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