Pandemonium (2023) – Film Review


Director: Quarxx
Cast: Arben Bajraktaraj, Hugo Dillon, Ophélia Kolb
Certificate: 18

By Sarah Morgan

What is wrong with the name Alexandre Claudin? Absolutely nothing as far as I can see, and yet this French writer-director prefers to go by the rather more pretentious mononym of Quarxx, which perhaps gives you an idea of what to expect from his most recent offering.

PandemoniumAccording to the IMDb, Quarxx has eight directorial credits to his name since his debut, Bushido Boogie, in 2006. All of them are visually stylish – as you would expect from someone who is also a painter and photographer. Unfortunately, despite its good looks, Pandemonium is rather over-indulgent and should have been tightened up by cutting 15 to 20 minutes out of the running time.

“Descends into the bowels of hell”

Dubbed by some as a modern-day take on Dante’s Inferno and/or Milton’s Paradise Lost (again, a rather highfaluting idea, if you ask me), it begins as two men meet on a winding isolated road, eventually realising they have both been killed in the same vehicular accident.

We follow one of them, Nathan, as he descends into the bowels of hell, where he’s destined to spend eternity experiencing the horrors of fellow tortured souls. It then turns into a sort of anthology movie slightly reminiscent of the cheap-and-cheerful films made by Hammer’s rival Amicus during the 1960s and 1970s as we hear various stories.

Among them is the horrifying tale of a mother left bereft after her teenage daughter commits suicide, unable to deal with the relentless bullying she has suffered; it’s the most effective of the tales, but also the saddest and most bleak. Another involves a psychopathic child and her monstrous friend – is he real, or a figment of her imagination?


“Overwhelmingly cold”

I feel as if I should like Pandemonium more, and yet there’s something overwhelmingly cold and clinical about it that means I failed to engage with most of the characters. Instead, it looks more like an exercise in Quarxx showing how clever and technically gifted he is; I’d have preferred to be punched in the gut emotionally.

Quarxx himself appears heavily in the special features, revealing it took three years to complete the project, due in part to Covid, but also to his efforts to retain control of the entire production by financing it himself. As a result, he can be applauded for its visual style – but also blamed for its shortcomings.

Pandemonium releases on Limited Edition Blu-ray and ARROW from 27th May

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