Looks like I just found out what killed disco – and no, it wasn’t the KISS song “I Was Made For Loving You,” despite the rock God’s momentary pit stop in funky town. Nope, writer/director Renaud Gauthier exacts sweet revenge on one of music’s most polarizing fads by turning high pitched voices and thumping bass lines into murderous tools of destruction – I give you Discopath. Yes, like the words “Psychopath” and “Disco” mashed together, because we all knew heavy metal wasn’t Satan’s soundtrack, but instead the musical stylings that drove people to wear roller skates and snort cocaine more violently than Rob Ford during a visit to Colombia. At what point does the Bee Gee’s song “Stayin’ Alive” become a warning instead of dance anthem?
Duane Lewis (Jeremie Earp) becomes our jiving star, a skittish man with a tortured past. Bumbling through simple jobs, Duane’s social life mirrors the same failed fates as he avoids disco clubs and large gatherings. Why, might you ask? Because disco killed his father, and the infectious sounds currently sweeping the nation transform Duane into a serial killing maniac – something typically frowned upon in public spaces. Unable to contain his dementia any longer, Duane flees New York City for colder Canadian weather, but when tragedy strikes again, he loses himself in a violent, groovy haze. Can this disco inferno be extinguished before too many bodies hit the floor?
Discopath is a gory, low-budget B-Movie shimmering with glitter and smelling of sweaty, intoxicated dancers. Gauthier transports us back to a funkadelic period where four-wheeled roller skates were a necessary means of transportation, discotecas were about as common as Starbucks coffee shops, and fashion statements were blinding blurs of color and sparkles – only enhanced by old-school camerawork.
Ignoring high-definition cameras and modern technology, cinematographer John Londono captures grimy 80s filmmaking loaded with practical effects, opting for mood-setting graininess for an inherently grindhouse vibe. Downgraded technicalities may sound off-putting, but when you’re capturing murders in disco-ball-lit nightclubs, the nostalgic feel heightens elements which would have only faltered through the crispest of lenses. If you’re making a movie about the 70s, why not pretend you filmed it in the 70s as well?
Let’s not sugar coat anything though – Discopath doesn’t skate into the sunset based on stylistic choices alone. Expressing the atmosphere of an 80s porno at times – to the point where I was actually waiting for a fit Ron Jeremy to walk on-screen – atrociously nasally Brooklyn accents pollute every NYC based scene, tipping the scale on some horrid acting. True snobs won’t make it more than five minutes into Gauthier’s film, as Duane’s incapable grill-working introduction evokes memories of Tommy Wiseau’s infamous flower buying scene in The Room – you know, “Hi, doggy!” Oh yea, we’re treated to some prime horror schlock thanks to wooden police chiefs, naughty nuns, and generic co-eds, as even our killer struggles to be genuinely menacing at times. You’re not crazy because you’re naked – you actually have to appear crazy to the core.
Yet, for some strange reason, there’s a hypnotic quality to Discopath. Gauthier sports a love and appreciation of horror as Duane knocks off his victims, creating some righteous disco-inspired death sequences – my favorite being an artistically haunting shot showing a dead female underneath a glass dance floor – which keeps action fresh and fluid. Slasher elements overtake what little psychological drama could possibly be salvaged, and again we feel as if we’ve been transported back to early Friday The 13th movies – complete with rubber corpses tumbling around in painstaking hilarity. Then again, smashing up disco records and using them as death-dealing weapons might be buried amidst any disco hater’s darkest fantasies, and a gleefully entertaining carnage factor is present for more accepting gorehounds.
Gauthier won’t win over all horror audiences, as more pretentious tastes will scoff at the cheesy nature of Discopath – but those same deterrents will be considered a saving grace to others. I’ll admit to feeling strung along as Gauthier jumps between one foreigner’s stereotypical reincarnation of NYC and a subtitled Canadian city, but then Duane plops a decapitated head on a record player and starts to DJ – yes, this is where Discopath hits full stride. Again, you’re watching a film about a killer whose psychosis is triggered by disco music – BECAUSE IT KILLED HIS FATHER. Sit back, relax, and kick out the bloody jams – better suited with some alcohol and a few friends.
As the blood spills and disco blares, it's hard not to become hypnotized by this glittery, cheesy 70s slasher throwback - blemishes and all.