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White Skin

"White Skin" is as colorless as its title suggests. Anemic thriller about Montreal grad student who discovers unfortunate secrets about his sickly girlfriend isn't sufficiently outrageous to click as a cult-fave, and lacks high-voltage shocks needed to make a splash with mainstream horror fans. Pic is destined to haunt vidstore bins.

With:
With: Marc Paquet, Marianne Farley, Frederic Pierre, Jessica Malka, Joujou Turenne, Julie Le Breton, Lise Roy, Jude Antoine Jarda, Anna Beaupre Moulounda, Marcel Sabourin. (French dialogue)

Despite some modestly clever allusions to race politics and goddess theory, “White Skin” is as colorless as its title suggests. Anemic thriller about Montreal grad student who discovers unfortunate secrets about his sickly girlfriend isn’t sufficiently outrageous to click as a cult-fave, and lacks high-voltage shocks needed to make a splash with mainstream horror fans. Pic is destined to haunt vidstore bins.

Working from a script he and author Joel Champetier adapted from Champetier’s novel, first-time helmer Daniel Roby generates only modest suspense while following misadventures of Thierry (Marc Paquet), shy would-be writer with chronic aversion to pale women.

Thierry reluctantly agrees to join Henri (Frederic Pierre), his Haitian-Quebecois roommate, for an evening of frolic with two prostitutes. But the evening ends badly when one of the hookers tries to slit Henri’s throat. Anxious to avoid embarrassing questions from friends and family about Henri’s wounds, the roomies opt to blame the attack on rampaging skinheads. Nothing good comes of this.

Much to his surprise, Thierry finds himself attracted to a beautiful music student, Claire (Marianne Farley), despite her almost translucent skin. They begin an intensely carnal but oddly dispassionate affair — he’s eager to share, but she maintains emotional distance — that continues even after she announces she’s being treated for cancer.

When he visits during her hospital treatments, however, Thierry recognizes one of Claire’s sisters (played with live-wire brazenness by Jessica Malka) as the hooker who knifed Henri. Worse, Thierry gradually discovers a dietetically revolting secret about all the women in Claire’s family.

“White Skin” is rife with wink-wink references to similarly-themed horror thrillers (David Cronenberg’s “Rabid” is visible on TV screen in one scene), but such in-jokey touches only draw more attention to the plot’s derivativeness.

Despite the obvious effort to appear multiculturally inclusive, the pic falls back on the tired cliche of positing a tradition-steeped black woman as the font of knowledge about supernaturalism. Drama might have been more provocative had it delved deeper into reasons why Thierry appears most comfortable among black friends (or, for that mater, why this conspicuously Caucasian fellow developed an aversion to pale femmes in the first place).

Pierre and Malka easily upstage mostly bland leads. Moody lensing by Eric Cayla is standout tech credit.

White Skin

Canada

Production: A Seville Pictures presentation of a Zone Film production. Produced, directed by Daniel Roby. Screenplay, Roby, Joel Champetier, based on the novel by Champetier.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Eric Cayla; editor, Yvann Thiboodeau, Francois Begin; music, Martin Lord, Rene Dupere; production designer, Christian Legare; set designer, Benoit Morin; costume designer, Francesca Chamberland; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon Brien, Serge Bouvier, Martin Pinsonnault, Clovis Gouaillier. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Canada First!), Sept. 9, 2004. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Marc Paquet, Marianne Farley, Frederic Pierre, Jessica Malka, Joujou Turenne, Julie Le Breton, Lise Roy, Jude Antoine Jarda, Anna Beaupre Moulounda, Marcel Sabourin. (French dialogue)

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