Arrow Video FrightFest 2022: Deep Fear Is an Effective Subgenre Mashup

One of the great things about film festivals like FrightFest is that you don’t always know what you’re in for when you sit down to watch a movie. Sure, sometimes you know the subgenre, but there are plenty of times when the plot synopsis leaves it open-ended. And Deep Fear definitely falls into that latter category. I knew there was going to be some sort of supernatural (or at least preternatural) threat in this story, but I had no idea what it would be. I decided to take a chance on this film, and I was excited to see what surprises it had in store for me.

Deep Fear was directed by Grégory Beghin, and it stars Victor Meutelet, Sofia Lesaffre, Joseph Olivennes, and Kassim Meesters. It’s set in France in the early 1990s, and it’s about a group of three friends who celebrate their graduation by taking a trip to the catacombs beneath Paris. At first, they have a really good time down there, but after they discover a secret bunker left by the Nazis during World War II, they realize that there’s something or someone else down there with them.

I have to be honest, even though I ended up liking Deep Fear, it took me a while to get on board with it. Nothing too horrific happens in the first half of the movie, so it stands or falls on the strength of its characters, and at first, I wasn’t a huge fan of them. There’s just nothing particularly captivating about this trio, so I had a bit of trouble connecting with them emotionally.

But as the film went on, I slowly came to like them. In fact, their effect on me reminded me a bit of The Blair Witch Project. One of the big reasons people love that movie so much is its characters, but they’re not particularly likable. In fact, they become downright unlikable as the story progresses, but no matter what, they always feel like real people. You believe them right from the get-go, so it’s easy to care about them.

A young woman looking scared and shining a flashlight

And that’s kind of how I felt about the characters in Deep Fear. To be fair, they’re not at all unlikable, but they’re not exactly super likable either, at least not at first. However, the acting and the dialogue make them feel like real people, so I eventually came to like them and care about them. In fact, I grew to like them so much that I enjoyed seeing them on screen no matter what they were doing, and that connection really carried the film for me.

On top of that, Deep Fear also does an excellent job of conveying the awe and wonder of the Parisian catacombs (or least this fictionalized version of them). While I would never want to go there myself (the trip down there is pretty sketchy), I had a great time exploring the place on screen. It just looks really cool, and the sense of history is almost palpable. It combines perfectly with the characters to make the first half of this movie really enjoyable despite its lack of horror, so I never found myself wondering when I was going to get to the “good stuff.”

My only real issue with this part of the film is that there are a few unnecessary scenes involving a group of neo-Nazi skinheads, and every time they showed up, they kept me from immersing myself in the movie. Granted, these characters do advance the plot in an important way at one point, but the film could’ve very easily gotten to that same place without them. Because of that, their inclusion in the narrative just felt really unnatural and contrived, so every time they showed up, they reminded me that I was watching a work of fiction, and that took me out of the story a bit.

The Deep Fear poster

However, that’s a very minor complaint, so on the whole, the first half of Deep Fear is really enjoyable, and when the horror finally kicks into gear in the second half, the movie gets even better. For starters, it does a good job of conveying just how dangerous these catacombs truly are. Sure, the place seems fun at first, but if even the slightest thing goes wrong, it could spell disaster. And that’s kind of what happens. Before the main characters discover the mysterious thing living in the Nazi bunker, the catacombs themselves start to become a threat, and it’s pretty thrilling.

Then, when we finally meet the creature, the terror ramps up even more. At first, the movie takes a bit of a Jaws-like approach, showing you what this unseen enemy is capable of without actually letting you get a good look at it, and for my money, that was the exact right filmmaking choice. It weaves together a deadly brutality with a perplexing sense of mystery, and that combination is absolutely terrifying.

That being said, Deep Fear does stumble a bit when it finally shows us the monster. The first time we see it, it looks really lame, and it’s brought to life by some rather poor CGI. I was pretty disappointed, but thankfully, the film quickly redeems itself. In fact, the rest of the movie is so good that by the time the credits began to roll, I had almost forgotten about that one bad shot of the creature.

So at the end of the day, I’m happy to say that I quite enjoyed Deep Fear. It has sympathetic characters, a really cool setting, and some effective horror, so if you get a chance to see this film, I heartily recommend that you do.

Deep Fear played at Arrow Video FrightFest on August 26, and it will be released to North American audiences on October 11 via the streaming service Screambox.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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