One of, if not the, best-known monsters in indigenous folklore are the Wendigo. Once men, their souls corrupted after turning to cannibalism, they stalk people who enter their territory and devour them, their hunger insatiable. This is the creature that Matthieu (Samuel ‘Samian’ Tremblay) faces in L’inhumain, but whether it’s the monster is up for debate.
Matthieu is a neurosurgeon who seems to have it all: a loving wife and son and a prestigious career, but things are falling apart behind the facade. He is having an affair, developing a tremor in his hands, and becoming addicted to drugs. All this comes to a head one day when he passes out during surgery, and during his recovery, his wife Julie (Véronique Beaudet) discovers texts from his mistress, Maude (Jeanne Roux-Cote). At the same time, being thrown out of his home Matthieu also gets news that his estranged father has passed away, and he has to travel home to the Anishinaabe reserve where he grew up.
It’s here that the movie kicks off as Matthieu has to battle his demons, both literal and figurative. Repressed memories of a childhood encounter with a wendigo and being face-to-face with his mother makes him more vulnerable than he has ever been. Also, when he heads into the woods to scatter his father’s ashes, there is a literal monster stalking him.
Tremblay does good work here. While the scenes of outright horror are good, where he shines is in the scenes with Beaudet, bot in the beginning as a douchebag and at the end as he begins to make amends. Roux-Cote has the most fun in the movie as Maude, both as a seductress and in a fun last act twist that gives her the opportunity to vamp on-screen.
I won’t spoil it, but if you are a fan of horror, you will have some idea of what to expect in a story about a man fighting his internal and external demons, but that’s not a bad thing. The story is well-executed, and while some budgetary limitations make a few of the effects moments stand out, some genuinely excellent gore effects more than make up for them. The setting is gorgeous too, and writer-director Jason Brennan taps into his indigenous heritage to deliver a fun monster and recontextualise and update that monster in interesting ways.
L’Inhumain is an effective horror thriller, and given that it’s Brennan’s first feature as a director, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
L’Inhumain played at the Whistler Film Festival and began its theatrical run as part of National Canadian Film Day.
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