The latest horror movie out of France, from the director of the impressive Hostile, Mathieu Turi, combines two common fears. His latest effort, Meander, puts audiences into a claustrophobic setting with a series of elaborate death traps. Devil, As Above, So Below, The Descent, Oxygen, and Buried have all exploited our fears of being trapped. And okay, death traps may not be a common phobia in the real world. Still the horror genre loves its death traps. From The Abominable Dr Phibes to Se7en to the Saw franchise, nothing screams horror quite like limb-twisting torture. Now available to stream on select platforms, Meander blends science fiction and horror with a story reminiscent of a Canadian cult classic.
On what would have been her daughter’s birthday, Lisa wanders an empty street alone. Though she initially declines the offer, Lisa accepts a ride with a stranger claiming to be a security guard. But he’s not who he claims and a struggle follows in the car. Lisa blacks out and when she later regains consciousness she find herself trapped in a series of industrial tunnels. With an electronic bracelet on her wrist, counting down, Lisa learns she has only so much time to escape each corridor before a deadly trap is triggered. As one corridor leads to another and another, Lisa desperately fights to find some possible escape.
Meander Overcomes a Familiar Premise with Well-Executed Tension
Anyone who’s watched Canadian sci-fi/horror Cube will immediately draw comparisons to Meander. Regardless of its creative detours over the course of its runtime, Meander owes a debt to the cult classic. Yet in spite of its similarities, writer and director Mathieu Turi (Hostile) invests his movie with an urgency. That is, Meander engages audiences in an experience that often makes it easy to set aside comparisons. Once Lisa finds herself in the industrial corridors, Meander rarely slows down for most of its 90 minutes. Turi crafts a horror experience that includes gruesomely decomposed corpses of past prisoners, narrowing passageways, rising water, and acid pools.
Once Lisa finds herself in the industrial corridors, Meander rarely slows for most of its 90 minutes.
At its best, Meander is a visually impressive movie. Turi puts you in the corridors with Lisa, so when passages begin to collapse, you can almost feel your breath speeding up. Both the cinematography and set design are impressive. And Turi includes some inventive additions to the story to maximize suspense and mystery. A lit wrist bracelet tells Lisa (and the audience) how much time she has in any given passage before the next trap springs. Later Turi introduces a floating skull with a metal eyepiece whose primary function seems to be keeping Lisa moving, but never actually letting her escape. It’s a curious addition – and visually creepy – that deepens the movie’s mystery. A shambling, deformed monstrosity in the passages never lets the pace slow.
Meander Veers Off Course Into an Incomprehensible Conclusion
Like its title, however, Meander winds off course in its final act. What starts as ‘Cube meets Saw‘ suddenly dives into ambiguous metaphysical musings. Though Cube raised questions about plausibility its story at least made sense in the movie’s own set of rules. Specifically, Cube followed through on its allegorical tale of the human condition. Comparatively, Meander initially promises a simple theme – an emotionally damaged character wishing to die who desperately fights for life when death confronts her. Apparently, Turi wanted to explore more complex ideas. Once Turi puts Lisa in what looks like a womb, the sci-fi/horror thriller detours into mind-bending territory. While the conclusion is a beautifully shot scene that contrasts with the earlier bleakness, it makes little sense. Simply put, Meander’s beginning and ending don’t connect.
While the conclusion is a beautifully shot scene that contrasts with the earlier bleakness, it makes little sense.
Nearly the entirety of Meander rests on Gaia Weiss’ shoulders. And Weiss admirably rises to the occasion with a compelling performance. Similar to Melanie Laurent’s performance in Oxygen, Turi puts Weiss into physically limited settings with almost no other actors with whom to interact. Yet Weiss makes you believe that she is truly an initially despondent woman who’s galvanized by her circumstances. In a movie that feels increasingly implausible, Weiss keeps you engaged with a humanizing portrayal of Lisa. When Meander hits its final moments, you’ll want to see Lisa make it to the end.
Meander’s Ending Will Divide Audiences on the Movie’s Overall Merits
When the credits kick in, Meander will likely divide audiences over what they just watched. As a horror experience, Turi executes near perfect tension for two-thirds of Meander. Even if its basic premise calls back to other movies, Turi exploits his claustrophobic setting for maximum tension. There’s no denying that Meander delivers some rollercoaster scares for most of its runtime. But there’s also no way some horror fans won’t draw comparisons with Cube. And Turi’s metaphysical ending will likely infuriate many viewers. After investing in Lisa’s plight, the movie ambiguous conclusion feels somewhat like a non-ending.