Movies: Discopath (2013)

When I announced that I would be reviewing giallo movies all throughout the month of July over on my Flickers of Fear video series, a listener recommended a film I had never heard of called Discopath. Since I couldn’t resist checking out a movie with a title like that, I went over to Tubi and gave it a watch.

Discopath (or Discopathe in its original French) isn’t exactly a giallo film, though it is heavily influenced by the genre; it’s actually more of a straight-up slasher, with a throwback 1970s vibe. Written and directed by Renaud Gauthier in his film debut, the French Canadian production premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal back in 2013, and opened in the United States at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, on a triple bill with the 1982 flick Pieces and the 1980 Canadian classic Prom Night.

After a groovy title sequence that utilizes the excellent “Flight ’76” by Walter Murphy, we’re introduced to our titular Discopath, an awkward young man by the name of Duane Lewis. He’s working as a cook in a diner in New York City, but he’s clearly getting overwhelmed, and when a group of guys stroll into the joint blasting some of that newfangled disco music on their enormous boom box, he seems to go into a kind of trance that culminates with him starting a small blaze on the grill and subsequently getting fired by the exasperated owner.

Glumly contemplating his recent joblessness in a nearby skate park, Duane is approached by a hot brunette on roller skates named Valerie, who remembers him from the old neighborhood. In spite of his reticence and the snide comments of her friends, she digs Duane enough to invite him to her place for a beer, and shortly afterward, she persuades him to accompany her to a discotheque called Seventh Heaven that evening, even loaning him some Saturday Night Fever-appropriate threads. Duane weakly tries to protest, claiming he’s trying to get away from the music, but in the end Valerie is just too pushy, an attribute that will directly lead to her horrible demise.

Interestingly, the murder itself isn’t shown right away; instead, we skip from Duane and Valerie entering the nightclub to the following morning, where a panicked Duane is scrambling to dispose of his blood-spattered clothing, amusingly finding a severed hand in one of his jacket pockets. Then, using money and identification from a wallet he stole from the club’s owner, he books it to the airport and snags a one-way flight to Montreal, leaving New York City behind.

Valerie’s actual death, shown later in the movie as a flashback, is likely one of the scenes that lumps this movie in with the giallo genre, as it’s very reminiscent of something Dario Argento would have shot in the 1970s. Valerie has her hand cut off while she’s trying to escape Duane’s clutches, and in a gloriously gruesome sequence, she attempts to hide in the space underneath the clear dance floor, but is brutally murdered while colorful lights flash, disco beats pulse, and oblivious dancers boogie away just inches from her dead body.

After a brief scene where the NYPD fruitlessly attempt to solve the crime, the movie sort of takes off in another direction, moving from English to French and jumping ahead to 1980. Duane, now using the name Martin Lopez, has been working as an audiovisual technician at a private Catholic girls’ school in Montreal, Quebec. He wears hearing aids in both ears, and all the staff at the school believe he’s a deaf-mute, though he only wears them in order to block out any possible music that might cause him to revisit Fatal Funkytown, if you catch my drift.

Not surprisingly, the homicide-free lull Duane has experienced for the past four years isn’t destined to last, and it isn’t long before students and teachers at the school—as well as the dancers on a local TV show called Discomania—fall into the crosshairs of his deadly mirror ball of MURDER.

This was an odd but rather enjoyable little film, clearly low budget but obviously made with love for the giallo and slasher movies of the 70s and 80s. The premise is naturally ridiculous, but the film is played pretty much straight, so I’m not even sure I’d go so far as to call it a horror comedy, though some of the cop characters are a tad over the top. A few of the Canadian actors were trying a little too hard to sound like New Yorkers at the beginning of the movie, but actually that just kind of added to the film’s charm for me, as did silly touches like a marching band carrying a massive American flag and playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” passing Duane at the airport. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY AMERICA AND NOT CANADA, YESSIRREE!

The kills actually start out kind of slow and not that graphic, but the movie gets a lot more violent and disgusting as time goes on, and the special effects work is actually quite good: victims get beheaded and pierced with vinyl records, a dead body flops out of a coffin following a horrific car crash, and someone falls off a building and makes a pretty nasty mess on the street below.

So while Discopath is not strictly a giallo, since it’s not exactly a murder mystery, it has enough giallo-esque touches to endear it to fans of the genre, as well as to those who want to see a well-done homage to the slashers of yesteryear. The tone is slightly uneven and there are a few parts of it that don’t work, but overall it’s a nifty little flick with a fantastic soundtrack and a fun, retro feel.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

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