Montreal Film Journal


n. pl. suc·cu·bus·es or suc·cu·bi
A demon or fiend; especially, a lascivious spirit supposed to have sexual intercourse with the men by night: "Ya know what, screw Chef. There, I said it. Screw ‘em, let him marry a succubus, I wanna go to sleep!"

Thierry Richard (Marc Paquet) is a young man from the "régions" who's come to Montreal to study literature. The night of his birthday, his black-skinned but québécois-hearted roommate Henri Dieudonné (Frédéric Pierre) treats him to a night with a couple of whores, but naughty fun soon turns to horror when one of them stabs Henri in the neck. He survives and the two want nothing more than to put this beside them. Thierry's attention soon turns completely to Claire (Marianne Farley), a musician who is creepily pale-skinned and red-haired, two things Thierry hates, yet he falls desperately in love with her anyway. Little does he know that she's the sister of the hooker who was after Henri's blood, and that she also craves male fluids...

In the past few years, there has been an increase in the production of genre films in Québec. Often, these are little more than cheap variations on American B-movies, but "La Peau Blanche" stands out as a smarter, more personal work. It's got a little gore and a little sex, but it handles supernatural elements in a low-key, bittersweet way far from sleazy exploitation. Marc Paquet and Frédéric Pierre are very sympathetic in the leads, and the movie takes the time to let us get to know and like them. Hence, as bizarre occurrences grow more insistent, the film remains grounded in the characters.

This is the first feature of director Daniel Roby, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Joel Champetier, the author of the book on which the movie is based. The subject matter is unmistakably silly, but it's treated in a way that makes us accept it anyway. Since we believe in the characters, we're more willing to accept the freaky stuff. There is a lot of interesting dialogue through the film, mostly about race – it's funny how this genre flick depicts a multiethnic community more accurately and sensibly than a lot of self-righteous "issue movies".

Such thoughtful writing makes "La Peau Blanche" more than an excuse for a few scares, but it does provide those as well. Roby is working from a limited budget, but he makes the most of it, going for atmosphere and suggestion instead of big special effects and splatter.

"La Peau Blanche" opens April 9th. You can visit the official website here.