Pandemonium is a haunting French anthology horror film written and directed by Quarxx, that provides a vivid, nightmarish descent into a twisted cinematic vision of Dante’s Inferno through two disturbing tales linked by a wraparound story.
Pandemonium opens as Nathan wakes up bloodied and disoriented, believing he has survived a near-fatal car crash, only to be greeted by Daniel who tells him the unfortunate news that he did not survive. The two men learn of their twisted fates, as it seems they are not the innocent victims they initially appear to be. For it is revealed that both Nathan and Daniel are guilty of unforgivable sins, and where once it was believed they might find salvation, the universe has damned them for their transgressions.
After being forced to accept his fate, Nathan finds himself lost in a hellish purgatory, not unlike Dante traveling through the underworld. It is here where Pandemonium abruptly switches to an anthology structure with little setup or transition, thrusting viewers into the first disturbing tale.
While the anthology format allows the film to explore different aspects of guilt, punishment, and evil, the tonal shift from Nathan’s story is jarring. The viewer questions if they are still watching the same film as it moves into the first extended tale.
The initial story centers on a deeply disturbed young girl who blames her wrongdoings on an imaginary friend, possibly to free herself from guilt. Delivered with an unsettling innocence, this tale suggests that evil may lurk where we least expect it. However, the segment tends to drag on too long without sufficient plot or character development to sustain the runtime.
The second story follows a grieving mother unable to accept her daughter’s suicide, attempting to ignore it and act as if nothing happened. While the premise intrigues, this segment also overstays its welcome, although it doesn’t appear to linger as long as the first lost souls’ tale.
Through these stories, it feels as if the director is attempting to illustrate that this circle of hell is for those who attempt to justify their actions and refuse to accept responsibility for their sins, as Nathan is also unable to accept his fate, believing himself to be justified for his heinous crimes, believing that he was only attempting to help, he’s not a murderer, he’s an angel of mercy.
The final story concludes Nathan’s journey proving that no good deed goes unpunished, especially if that good deed is in the eye of the obscured beholder.
Overall, Pandemonium starts off strongly as Nathan’s twisted fate unravels. However, the film loses momentum when it abruptly shifts to an anthology format with little transition. The movie likely would have been better served staying focused on Nathan’s journey rather than turning to an anthology structure. Nathan’s story was by far the most gripping and captivating tale. Unfortunately, after the tonal shift, his narrative fizzles out.
The abrupt transition away from Nathan represents a missed opportunity, as his nightmarish journey appears to be building towards something greater. By shifting focus, the film squanders its initial promise. Pandemonium would have benefited from fully exploring its compelling underworld premise through Nathan’s eyes first, rather than diluting his story into a disjointed anthology.
In the end, Pandemonium is a mixed bag. Fans of avant-garde horror looking for something unconventional may find the ambitious anthology structure satisfyingly bizarre. However, viewers seeking a gripping descent into the twisted underworld promised by the setup will likely find the film fails to fulfill its potential. The abrupt shifts dilute the power of Nathan’s nightmare. For those drawn in by the infernal premise, Pandemonium ends up a confusing, disjointed experience rather than a provocative trip to the depths of darkness. Unless looking for wildly experimental horror, your time may be better spent elsewhere.