THE STORM WITHIN (Martin Doepner). See listings. Rating: NN
Well, you can't say the Canadian Film Fest doesn't make interesting choices. To kick off the 2013 edition, which runs from Wednesday (March 20) to March 23 at the Royal, they've chosen a Quebec period thriller that crosses the stiff historical pageantry of a Heritage Moment with nothing less than the horror flick I Spit On Your Grave.
Set in rural Quebec on the last day and night of the 18th century, Martin Doepner's The Storm Within opens with francophone frontierswoman Espérance (Isabelle Guérard) bidding her husband, Pierre (Peter Miller), adieu as he rides out to the nearby village.
When a blizzard blows in, a troop of British soldiers takes shelter in Espérance's home, and she comes to believe they've shot Pierre, mistaking him for a thief. The night devolves into a cat-and-mouse game as she tries to figure out how to protect herself and her children, much to the confusion of the redcoats' well-meaning leader (Lothaire Bluteau, gravely miscast as an Englishman just barely conversant in French).
The convincing initial tension gives way to stasis as Doepner struggles to pad his movie's midsection; Espérance can't unleash hell until the last 20 minutes, so Guérard must spend a lot of time glowering balefully in a corner.
Once she finally puts her plan in motion, we realize how thin that plan is to begin with. We also see that Doepner's final flourish is completely nonsensical.
Wednesday (March 13), 7 pm, at the Royal (608 College). Canadian Film Fest schedule online at canfilmfest.ca.