This review is to serve as a warning to the horror fan. Sadly, however, not the kind of warning that might accompany the discussion of movies such as A Serbian Film. Vinyan promotes itself heavily as a horror film. Cover images and posters feature demonic looking children surrounded by skulls on spikes, and bodies hanging out of trees. The blurb tells us that “when someone dies a horrible death, their spirit becomes confused and angry, it becomes ‘Vinyan’”. Whilst the wonderful thing about the genre is its breadth, Vinyan barely qualifies – despite masquerading as horror. It does warrant discussion though, hence its inclusion on Transgressive Cinema – if only for the aforementioned cautionary note.
Vinyan opens to a beautifully shot sequence of underwater bubbles in slow motion, which eventually fuse with dark human hair. It then immerses us in the vibrant seediness of Thai nightlife. The characters of Jeanne (Emmanuelle Beart) and Paul (Rufus Sewell) are capably developed as they struggle to cope with the loss of their son who is missing, presumed dead, in the Asian tsunami disaster. When Jeanne thinks she recognises the missing boy in video footage shot recently in Burma, the couple undertake to illegally enter Burmese territory with the help of Triad gangsters to search for their son in the marshes and jungles of that inhospitable landscape.
With such an exciting premise in a terrifying and evocative setting, it is such a shame that this film largely fails. Just before the hour mark, the film tangibly starts ebbing away and the suspension of disbelief that had initially been built went shortly after. That willingness to want to take this journey with the characters on an adventure which surely must be full of horrors was absent as the realisation set in that very little of interest was going to happen.
Some ambiguity in a film, especially a horror film, is a good thing. It is deeply effective to allow the mind to fill in the blanks and to provoke human nature into wondering “why?” However Vinyan has too much ambiguity and it is not delivered with the necessary writing skill to be effective. There are too few nuances and pointers to justify the lack of conclusion, which ultimately makes wondering about the films motive pointless. Being too vague about what is happening takes the viewer out of the film, and prevents immersion and belief in its fiction.
There is a fine moment of horror in the conclusion – the gang of children seen throughout the film (who may or may not be of supernatural origin) mob a character who is then impaled on spikes and disembowelled! This alone is not sufficient to recommend watching the film, which ultimately failed to deliver on its initial potential, despite its talented cast and stunning cinematography.