Saturn Bowling: A Tale of Two Brothers

Image Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Patricia Mazuy’s Saturn Bowling (Bowling Saturne) is a title that has followed me for the past year. When you’re going from film festival to film festival looking for new films to discuss, you tend to notice ones you miss and hope to see them when you can. Don’t get me wrong, film festivals are fantastic experiences, and if you haven’t noticed, we tend to bring you as many titles as we can when covering these festivals, but it’s hard to get to everything. Saturn Bowling had the misfortune of being a film I kept circling and missing for the last year. But now, as it graces limited theaters on September 29 and prepares for VOD and home video release on October 24, I finally got to sit down with it.  

The Saturn Bowling poster shows a man's red-hued face against a green backdrop, other faces are shown down his silhouette
Image Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

With a name like Saturn Bowling, you’d probably think the movie is ready to get weird and cosmically frightening. That is not the case. Saturn Bowling is a very down-to-earth tale that centers on two half-brothers who grew up with different experiences and perspectives on their shared father. The film starts with Guillaume (Arieh Worthalter) trying to converse with Armand (Achille Reggiani) about their dad’s passing. Guillaume has received his father’s bowling alley, the titular lanes of Saturn Bowling, and hopes to have Armand run the place so he can focus on his career and move up the ranks in the local police force.  

The film is then broken up into three acts. To start, we follow Armand as he moves into the bowling alley’s adjoining flat and makes enemies of his father’s old hunting buddies. It also feels like he’s knowingly running the bowling alley into the ground to spite his brother until he begins to see an opportunity with the young women who frequent the establishment. At first, the audience believes Armand is just awkward, as he breaks into his ex’s vehicle and can’t muster a word while accompanying a group of women to their car in the rain while holding an umbrella. However, these encounters grow dark through the steely stare of exasperation on Armand’s ex’s face or Armand’s proclivities after the group of women takes off in the rain that night. This all leads to the crux of the story: the sex-induced brutal murder of a young woman Armand picks up at Saturn Bowling.  

A man with a red light glowing on his face sees his reflection in a car window
Image Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

The film then resets, and we see the world through Guillaume’s eyes as he uncovers multiple bodies a month later. The press getting wind of a serial killer does nothing for Guillaume’s stress as he tries to find clues about how the victims are connected. Armand’s management stylings, which try to cut off their father’s hunting club from having free reign over food and drink at the alley, result in holding up an environmentalist (Y-Lan Lucas) and Guillaume saving the day. A relationship begins to form between Guillaume and the environmentalist, which bleeds into a third act where all these parallel characters on opposing sides converge. 

Saturn Bowling is exquisitely written by director Mazuy and co-writer Yves Thomas. The film presents a marvelous duality in the story of brotherly hunters. One on the side of the law, a brother is hunting down the serial killer in his investigation. The other brother evolves into a killer on the prowl for victims. Both live in the shadow of their big game-hunter father, and the resonance that trait has bestowed into the bloodline becomes the thematic intent as we see how differently the two have been brought up in the world. Guillaume was given every opportunity, possibly because he had a relationship with his father and worked his way up to a detective. Meanwhile, Armand lived with his mother and was shunned by his father, devolving into a murderous psychopath.  

The further involvement of the hunters and the hunting-opposed environmentalist offers another contradictory parallel, made to make the divisive parallel between the brothers more apparent. It also allows Mazuy to carve out the moral details of the black, white, and grey in between, while similarly suggesting hunting as a barbaric male concept that can lead to ostensibly violent traits. Female supporting character Xuan tends to act as the compass in the four-way entanglement, prone to violence only when provoked in a situation that calls for it. There are a lot of layers to Saturn Bowling when it comes to violence, but the comparison of women to The Most Dangerous Game is where Mazuy really seems to be coming from.  

A man holds another man up against a wall
Image Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Mazuy has cited characters in Nicholas Ray, Park Chan-wook, and Nagisa Ôshima‘s works as her inspirations for the archetypes presented in Saturn Bowling. I suppose those hard and gritty characters can be seen. However, Armand becomes a simply irredeemable persona in Saturn Bowling. While Armand is only seen savagely attacking a single victim, it is a scene built to burn itself in the viewer’s psyche. It’s an unpleasant and uncomfortable scene that doesn’t let up and psychologically damages the viewer for the rest of the film. Yeah, it’s that callous. But it does make you want to see the rest of the film, hoping Armand gets something of equal heinousness as the film works toward a conclusion.  

To say I didn’t like Saturn Bowling isn’t true. As I’ve said, the writing is excellent, and the cinematography in its dark neon reds and low lighting helps inject a rich, tense atmosphere into the neo-noir thriller, especially as things become more disorderly after a second act that feels somewhat procedural. If I compare it to anything I’ve seen recently, it would be on the same end as Karim Ouelhaj’s Megalomaniac. Essentially, there’s a lot to like here, and on a technical end, Saturn Bowling is an impressive achievement in editing and direction choices. That said, I doubt I’ll be undertaking a second viewing of the film. While it can be a very entertaining affair, and I’m glad I got to see the movie, Saturn Bowling is not my cup of tea. It’s an unflinching take on male-dominating obsessions, but it’s a challenging watch the first time through that will stick with you in the wince-inducing places of your subconscious. 

Saturn Bowling arrives in limited theaters on September 29 before coming to VOD on October 24.  

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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