‘Climax’ Presents a Fresh Vision of Hell

Of Course Hell Is a ’90s Dance Party

You’ll never look at sangria the same way again. Known provocateur and transgressive writer/director Gaspar Noé’s latest entry is classified as a horror musical, but it will be remembered as an instant-classic horror film with a great, integral soundtrack.

Based loosely on a true story, Climax spirals us through the harrowing story of a dance troupe in mid-1990s France having one last celebratory dance party during a winter storm. Don’t worry; there are no Total Request Live tunes here. It’s mostly electronica.

CLIMAX ★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Written by: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub
Running time: 95 min.


Someone spikes the punchbowl with LSD, and the dozens of players devolve into their basest instincts — violence, incest, rape, self-mutilation, etc. You remember the ’90s.

Noé and long-time collaborator Benoît Debie have been known for their interesting approach to guiding audiences through stories with sweeping camera movement, unorthodox angles, and unsettling mood lighting. Climax doesn’t disappoint .

Lengthy single takes weave through intricate choreography, keeping you marveling at the sheer physicality on display by these actors. Extended scenes simply focus on the dancers showing off their moves from overhead, a somewhat disorienting vantage point to watch death drops. Thankfully, there’s no Macarena. Disappointingly, there’s no Mambo No. 5.

Bold editing and style choices like running the closing credits crawl after the cold open and tossing up the studio logos in the middle of the first act add to the madness. Title cards randomly stop the proceedings to interject ominous assertions like “Death is an extraordinary experience.”

There are moments when I felt like I was watching an honest-to-god depiction of what hell must be like. Screaming, fucking, bleeding, contorting: All that was missing was someone speaking backwards or in Latin like that hell scene from Event Horizon.

It’s difficult to introduce new nightmares in 2018, difficult to deliver something we’ve never seen or thought we should fear. We’ve come a long way since Requiem for a Dream’s after-school special bullshit. LSD isn’t the bad guy here. The person in the mirror is. Noé’s showing us that—more than anything else in this world—we should be afraid of ourselves and what we’re capable of when our inhibitions are gone.

I don’t know about you, but when my inhibitions are gone I’m going to down a whole pitcher of sangria and catch this film again the first chance I get.

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Pablo Gallaga

Pablo Gallaga is a former video blogger and recapper for Television Without Pity (RIP). You can probably find him at an Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. He will thwart your alien invasion by uploading a rudimentary computer virus to your mothership using a 1996 Apple Powerbook and no Wi-Fi.

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