It begins in the blazing heat – Hitchcock always loved the gleam of evil in broad daylight (see North by Northwest), and Dominik Moll, who directed and co-wrote this nifty nail-biter, knows how to tighten the suspense screws. Michel (Laurent Lucas) and his wife, Claire (Mathilde Seigner), are sweltering in a car with no air conditioning and three young, yelling kids. Enter Harry (Sergi López), an ex-schoolmate Michel runs into at a rest stop. Harry, traveling with Plum (Sophie Guillemin), a butterball bombshell, offers food, a cool car and a sympathetic ear. For his help, Harry wins an invite to Michel’s country house. Hey, Michel, big mistake.
That’s the setup for one of the most deliciously witty and wicked thrillers in ages – the real deal in palm-sweating psychological terror. Harry can’t do enough for Michel – he praises his looks, his brains, his doggerel poetry, buys him an SUV, tenders advice on sexual stamina (eat raw eggs) and offers to eliminate irritants in Michel’s life, be they wife, kids or parents. Talk about twisted wish-fulfillment fantasies. Harry is a smiling psychopath to rank with Robert Walker in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, and López – in a career-making performance – plays him with killer-diller charm. Cheers, too, for Guillemin, who is hilarious and heartbreaking as the ripely sexy Plum. I won’t spoil the fun with body counts and plot turns (but do listen for that ringing cell phone in a car trunk). You’re in for a treat.