Eden Log is one of those films that fail on several levels but which I’m glad to have seen.
Our central character (Clovis Cornillac) wakes up caked with mud in what appears to be a sewer. He has no recollection his own identity, but there’s a lot of dead bodies around and many roots dangling from the ceiling. He soon discovers that he is deep within an underground complex where something has gone drastically wrong. To make matters worse, there’s some nasty beasties roaming around, not to mention other humans who wish him harm.
The film is unsettlingly like a computer game. A survival horror game to be precise. All of the cinematography is handheld, and often peering over our hero’s shoulder. His torch pierces the black in much the same way you would expect in such a game. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only elements that resemble a computer game. The dialogue and acting would be the most obvious. As far as I can tell, this French film also had the actors do takes in English, so we get to see an English language version without horrible overdubs. This is fine, except for the fact that it sounds like we’re listening to a bunch of French people mimicking American accents. I would have much preferred to read subtitles. Secondly, the plot and tempo feels off-balance, much like the storyline in a computer game.
The main problem is this: we get a pretty conclusive if vague understanding of the facility and its purpose too early, and things never get much clearer. In a film like this we need the information given out piece by tantalising piece – each new step should add to the previous until we reach a nifty revelation at the end. Eden Log doesn’t do this, and will frustrate many with the almost-clear-but-not-quite dénouement.
The second problem would be that we have no sympathy for the main character at all. He’s terrified and confused and all of his actions are understandable, yet it’s near impossible to elicit sympathy for a person of which we know next to nothing. It’s not a case of bad acting, but rather a script that doesn’t provide the audience with the tools needed to be really caught up in the narrative.
Lastly there’s the monsters. They’re fine – a little reminiscent of the ones in The Descent – but it’s unclear just how threatening they are. There are too many easy escapes, and we never get a sense of exactly what they could do to our hero.
All that being said, this film did suck me in. The overall concept and set design is extraordinary. The cinematography is black and white for the most part, with the contrast turned up to 11, which does make it a little frustrating to watch. The sparse, late 80s industrial soundtrack, courtesy of Alex and Willie CortRating: