Anne Parèze’s (Vanessa Paradis) world is falling apart in French director Yann Gonzalez’s hypnotic second feature. She’s drinking too much, her girlfriend has left her (again), and the gay skin flicks that made her name as a producer have become staid and predictable.
When one of her cast ends up murdered in a fetish club, rather than mourn him, she sees it as an opportunity to save her career and win back her lover (Kate Moran) by using the grisly events as the plot in her next film. She only realises this might not be the best idea when the masked killer then picks off another member of her crew.
What follows is an Italian-style horror-thriller with the look of a 1970s Brian De Palma. Hyper-stylised, with a dreamy electronic soundtrack courtesy of Gonzalez’s brother (and his band M83), the action follows Anna as she tries to discover why her cast is being targeted. There are shocking moments – the opening scene is nasty and bleak – but there’s enough stylistic flair to elevate things above your run-of-the-mill thriller.
By weaving Anna’s latest film into the story, the director finds some humour, which works both to counterbalance the violence and leach away tension. ‘Knife + Heart’ works better when Paradis is off investigating long-extinct birds (a feather is left at each murder) and deciphering her troubling dreams, tapping into the supernatural elements of giallo. It’s an oddly compelling thriller that may just presage bigger and better things from its maker.