Claustrophobic Meander (2021) Will Leave You Breathless
First Non-Festival Release: May 26, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Mathieu Turi
Writer: Mathieu Turi
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Gaia Weiss, Peter Franzén, Romane Libert
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Lisa (Gaia Weiss) accepts a ride from a stranger named Adam (Peter Franzén). Not long after, she realizes that he is a wanted serial killer when a radio show broadcasts details that suspiciously fit his profile. A struggle ensues and she blacks out. She awakens in a metallic room and begins panicking. Just when she believes all hope is lost, an opening forms which reveals a tunnel. Not wanting to take any chances, Lisa decides to make a crawl for freedom. Traps, monsters, and other survivors won’t stop Lisa from surviving. Or will they?
A claustrophobic and suspense-laden film, Meander capitalizes on visceral horror experiences over well-developed story.
High concept films like Meander live and die by their premise, which is where Meander thankfully succeeds. The tunnels, however constricting, feel expansive when needed. There are some excellent moments of worldbuilding without any words. Some examples include a machine that heals Lisa intermittently throughout her journey and some holographic walls, which also help alleviate issues that typically burden confined horror films like Meander concerning relevant backstory. The cinematography is suitably cramped and often drags just like Lisa does as she crawls forward. Sleek in design and complementary to the world it creates, Meander offers plenty in terms of cinematic eye candy.
While limited, there are some nice practical effects and makeup done on some creatures that really elevate the film to disturbing levels. A nice mixture of the organic and metallic, the technology employed in the film makes everything feel steeped in reality and still pass as advanced. Expert sound design makes the traps and other obstacles in the labyrinth feel ten times scarier. It’s its own symphony of crunches, searing, bubbling, and clanking, which adds to the sensory experience the team is going for.
There isn’t much plot to the film; it serves mainly as an allegory. The story outside of this, however, is driven through the actions and observations of Lisa rather than having everything spelled out for the audience. Trust is given to the viewer to figure out what is going on. It almost feels like we are trapped in there with her. This is the right move considering there is scant dialogue and few characters to drive the plot of Meander forward.
There are many interpretations of Lisa’s journey. Some are attributed to the spiritual, others to extraterrestrials, and even the hallucinatory. Regardless, Lisa’s journey is the most important part of the film. Her desire to push forward comes through in every scene regardless of your idea of what happens. She encounters setbacks, damages herself, and learns along the way. It’s easy to root for her and her situation before she gets in the tubes sets up her story in an even stronger manner.
Lisa’s character arc is one of accepting the loss of her daughter to move forward. It’s an on the nose metaphor for her situation but it’s what grounds her journey from reluctant and scared to resilient. Gaia Weiss musters every ounce of strength to portray the grueling torment that Lisa must overcome. Every grunt, scream, and strike is matched with a flicker of hope in her eyes and a beating will to survive in her physicality. While Lisa meets many of the qualifiers of a typical final girl, it’s her reaction to grief that makes her standout from the pack.
Is Meander one hundred percent original and insightful? No. Is Meander an effective and fun survival horror that gets almost everything else right? Yes. Weiss carries the emotional anchor of the film, which does lend to some melodramatic moments, but gives it enough punch to push through otherwise repetitive sequences of her subverting death’s grasp ala death machine traps. Strong visual effects, sound design, and set design makes Meander come to life in ways that other similar riffs on Cube and The Platform fail to do. Of course, the writing is stronger in both films, but for those expecting a good time, will be satisfied with this take. Don’t Meander and check this one out as soon as possible.
Overall Score? 7/10