Director Paul Vecchiali’s 1970 undiscovered gem The Strangler is as modern a Serial Killer film as anything released in 2023. Newly restored and playing Fantastic Fest 2023
Sometimes films take time to not just develop a following but to see them as the bit of brilliance they are. Such is the case with The Strangler on both accounts. A new 2K restoration and a theatrical release by Altered Innocence should resolve both issues.
The French thriller plays like a tightly wound character study. The violence, done off-screen, is never the focus but rather the individuals that are tangled in the web of murders and deceit. Not only the Killer (Jacques Perrin) and the Police Officer tracking him (Julien Guiomar) but a petty thief (Paul Barge) who steals from the corpses once the Killer has left and a journalist (Eva Simonet) with an obsession with the case.
Vecchiali’s film released in the same year as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, feels nothing like the Argento thriller or the Giallos that would proceed both. The film finds more resonance in the work of Patricia Highsmith, specifically her Ripley novels. Here like in the Ripley novels, the concern is more the relationships and how predators circle one another or their prey and justify their violence.
The way the film slowly strips every one of any sort of morality they begin with is one of the more fascinating aspects of the film, unique to The Strangler in this genre. So much so that the film ends in the most unexpected of ways. Reveling in the dark amorality its characters have begun to swim in. One that will leave an audience unsure and unsteady in the best way possible.
If one loves their thrillers with the bleakest of outlooks towards humanity. Look no further than The Strangler.