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Meander (2021) – Review: A Fun and Thrilling Horror Film That You Should Watch

January 23, 2022

Quick thoughts – Grade – A- – Meander is a lean and mean horror film that is refreshingly straightforward. I love how it quickly gets to the action, and builds towards a satisfying conclusion. 

It’s been well over a month since I watched Meander and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I sat down and watched it again and I’m happy to report that it’s even better than I remembered. Normally I dislike the phrase, but it has definitely been living rent-free in my head since the first viewing. There’s something refreshing and admirable about the straightforward world building and dedication to creating an experience that stands alongside movies like Cube or The Descent. The 90-minute experience directed by Mathieu Turi is lean and mean and surprisingly easy to follow as the vast tunnel system in which the film takes place has a certain logic (horrible things happen), and every piece of death puzzle plays an important part.

Meander kicks off with a birds-eye view shot of a car driving through the deep woods towards the middle of nowhere. Soundtracked by the Shawn James song “Through the Valley,” it establishes the isolation and wide open terrain where a massive system of tunnels could be built to allow for the ensuing death and carnage to go unnoticed. This is where we meet Lisa (Gaïa Weiss), who is laying in the middle of the road hoping a careless driver uses her as a speed bump. Before she’s flattened, the car stops and we meet a stranger who may or may not be the killer people are talking about on the car radio. From there, things go dark and the next time we see Lisa she has been changed out of her clothes, and stuffed into a form-fitting Hunger Games-esque outfit meant to streamline her journey through a system of tunnels that are trying to kill her. In a smart filmmaking choice, her journey is lit by a large wristwatch-from-hell that emits a yellow light in the dark tunnels and turns red to let her know when things are about to get deadly. Immediately we’re thinking she’s part of a bored billionaires death game because it would take millions of dollars and loads of discreet contractors who signed non-disclosure agreements and didn’t ask about the acid traps or flame throwers that work on highly technical timers. In a neat almost spoiler-y twist, things soon take a turn towards science-fiction when we’re introduced to a skull-like contraption that might be the most interesting horror visual of 2021 (aside from the chair throw in Malignant) and burnt maniacs who crawl through the tunnels looking to violently bite, claw and throttle anyone unlucky enough to come across them. 

To spoil the rest would be a disservice, but it’s worth noting the journey of Lisa, who goes from being suicidal, to becoming an unstoppable and determined force of nature who isn’t about to let some tunnels kill her. In some of my favorite horror films such as Drag me to Hell, Crawl, and The Descent, I love watching characters draw from some hidden reservoirs of strength as they battle demons, cave monsters or hungry alligators who are trying to either send them to hell or eat them. It’s also nice that Lisa isn’t dragged down by too much backstory or drama. We know that her daughter died, and she was laying in the road because it would’ve been her ninth birthday. We also know that Lisa doesn’t really want to die, she was laying in the road because she just wanted to see her daughter again. It may be contradictory, but it makes sense when we see how far she goes to survive. A lot of credit needs to go to Weiss whose physicality and sense of urgency make you cheer for her, and you almost feel the pain when she’s crossing over a devious acid trap that has undoubtedly disintegrated the bones of dozens of past competitors. 

Director Mathieu Turi has been open about his love for Cube, and that love is evident in Meander. He wanted to create a fun horror experience and he totally succeeded. I love how streamlined the film is, and I appreciate the visual storytelling that slowly unravels a wild new world. I’m not sure if it will happen, but I’d love to see a sequel, and I hope Weiss and Turi continue getting solid work.

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