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[TIFF] ‘Saloum’ review: Exciting genre mash up filled with emotion & scares

Time moves slowly when swords are drawn.

Saloum is a horror movie that uses lore rarely seen in the genre. The movie is about an elite group of mercenaries who become stranded in the titular tiny island community. As they attempt to ingratiate themselves to the people of the village, something far more sinister is happening right before their eyes. As the apprehension rises the trio have to make tough decisions.

It is always nice to see folklore from other parts of the world. The film uses African-Caribbean mysticism as an integral part of its plot. This gives Saloum a refreshing feel that can be hard to find in horror. It also makes the events that much more interesting. Saloum is a genre mashing ride that will constantly keep audiences on their toes. The opening scenes are filled with huge captions and moments that seem like an action comedy. As it morphs into a thriller, it never loses its comedic touch. The final act is full blown horror.

It sounds like a movie without an identity. It is certainly true the film defies categorization, but it never feels rushed or confused. Saloum is a frenzied ride that takes those watching through a whirlwind of emotions. While the scares never reach the level screenwriter-director Jean Luc Herbulot probably intended, the tension is incredible and the script is laugh out loud funny.

SALOUM Clip #1 – “Malembe” from LACME STUDIOS on Vimeo.

In between all the action and terror is a moving revenge story about a man coming to terms with his past. This part of Saloum is fascinating in that it is almost a subplot, but it is also the driving force behind much of what happens. It also leads to the film’s most powerful moments. The cinematography is gorgeous at times. There are long beautiful shots of the landscape and exquisite use of lighting.

Saloum seems like it is a movie with too much going on. Part action, part thriller, part horror, there is a lot packed into its hour and a half runtime. All the while, it also tries to inject moments of levity into its story. Everything flows together seamlessly in a tale that will keep viewers on the edge of the seat while also providing emotion.

The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 9 – September 18

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