The Laplace’s Demon has been making the rounds on the film festival circuit for some time now and will soon be available on VOD February 22. Directed by Giordano Giulivi, The Laplace’s Demon is a gripping little film that takes place over one night in mansion-sized escape room. The “killer” hunting our characters down has predicted their every move, and escape is as impossible as trying to outrun the grim reaper himself. Washed in a silky black-and-white filter, The Laplace’s Demon feels like a horror story that’s unfolding two planes and a boat ride away from Sin City (2005).
The French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace (I promise this is important) believed that all human activity, and decision making is preordained and calculable. Comparing life to an intricate, but predictable mechanism, Laplace theorized that if someone could know the precise locations of a person or object in space and time, a formula could be created that would reveal the inner-workings of the entire universe. This someone was referred to by Laplace as “The Demon”.
“If free will does not exist, how do you escape a killer that can predict your every move?”
Drawing inspiration from Laplace’s theory, The Laplace’s Demon follows seven researchers, and one surly boat captain, trapped in the mansion of the mysterious and reclusive Professor Cornelius. The team of researchers have recently hit a wall in their studies, predicting outcomes of physical events. Specifically, they hope to predict how many pieces a drinking glass will break into after being pushed off a table with a science pole. Although the secretive Prof. has not revealed his true intentions for having invited them, it becomes clear very quickly that they are all peers in a very specific field.
As an unseen clock strikes and the room shudders with it’s reverberations, the party guests find a model of the estate, with eight chess pawns placed in their exact positions. Beneath the model lives an intricate system of gears and pulleys tied to each group member, mimicking their movements in uncanny accuracy. When someone dares leaves the room, A queen piece suddenly appears in the model, cornering the unfortunate pawn before opening up and swallowing them whole. When their team member never returns and The Queen continues to roam the halls, hunting them down one by one, the group quickly realizes that there isn’t a step they take that hasn’t already been foreseen by Professor Cornelius. If free will does not exist, how do you escape a killer that can predict your every move?
Dripping in inky black and white, The Laplace’s Demon is a Twilight Zoney, Outer Limits-esque thought experiment about the inescapability of fate. And that black-and-white is such a brilliant choice. The entire movie exists in a heightened sense of reality and the stylistic choices help amplify it’s classic cinema ambitions. Film critic Roger Ebert always praised black-and-white film for creating a “mysterious dream state”, a description that could just as easily been used as a subtitle for this brilliantly bizarre indie film. Like an Agatha Christie novel that has been filtered through a suspense simulator, The Laplace’s Demon is a murder mystery magic trick.
Bringing a surprising level of suspense to an otherwise odd premise, The Laplace’s Demon does what indie films do best, and turns it’s weaknesses into it’s biggest strengths. While I have no doubt Giordano Giulivi could easily film a nerve wracking chase scene, we see the majority of it’s early scare sequences played out on a chess board. The pawns frantically run for cover, desperately trying to hide from The Queen while the remaining members of the group look on in horror. While the details of the demon that The Queen represents are still a mystery, all suspense lives and dies on that board, in between the researchers philosophical ponderings over the nature of free will and their chances (if any) of survival.
“Like an Agatha Christie novel that’s been filtered through a suspense simulator, The Laplace’s Demon is a murder mystery magic trick.”
Another devilishly impressive move involves a simple video cassette. Knowing how his guests will react, and even the words they will speak, the professor carries out full conversations with the group from a pre-recorded tape. As is the trouble with time-travel movies as well, the professor himself is also a victim of his formula’s calculation. Despite the horrible acts he is responsible for carrying out, he is bound by fate to see the night through. In a way, the group is travelling through time. Or at least, experiencing time in a way unlike they ever had before. But meddling with time, or shaking hands today with the demon that awaits you tomorrow, is a dangerous practice that leads only to certain death.
Not enough praise can be given to Giordano Giulivi who, among writing and directing, holds what can only be a Guinness World Book of Records amount of credits on the film. The Laplace’s Demon is an incredibly well though-out chiller that answers as any questions as it asks. The complexities of your Pi‘s (1998) or your Primer‘s (2004) is there, but it finds no use in ambiguity or over-simplified explanations. I could not get over how much tension was packed into action sequences playing off screen and even after “the Demon” was revealed, the film still had a few cards left up it’s sleeve. It’s always impressive to see someone tell you what they are going to do, and watch them do it in a way that still surprises you. If I told you right now that I had “seen the future” and already knew you would enjoy The Laplace’s Demon, would you believe me?
After a lengthy and impressive festival run, The Laplace’s Demon lands on iTunes, Prime Video and more VOD platforms in the United States and Canada Februaray 22, 2019. Let us know if you’re excited to discover the ultimate formula for life the universe and everything, let us know on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!