[Review] Pandemonium [Pigeon Shrine FrightFest]: French Shocker Drags Viewers Through a Stunningly Imagined Hell

After shocking audiences with his 2019 debut feature All the Gods in the Sky, French writer/director Quarxx returns with another chilling work, Pandemonium (France, 2023). What starts out as a contemplation on the afterlife turns into a dark — and occasionally darkly humorous — journey through Hell.

Nathan (Hugo Dillon) and Daniel (Arben Bajraktaraj) were both involved in an auto accident. Daniel tries to convince Nathan of the reality that they both died in the accident, but the latter doesn’t want to accept the truth. He finally does when the pair are given a pair of doors through which to pass — one seemingly to Heaven and the other, of course, to Hell.

Once the men pass through one of the doors — this being a horror film, you can guess which one — the film turns into a sort of anthology, as viewers first encounter eerie little girl Nina (Manon Maindivide), who has the run of her home after the rest of her family is killed, which she blames on basement-dwelling Tony the Monster (Carl Lafôret). This segment is truly unsettling with both images shown and that which Quarxx leaves to the imagination, and young Mandivide gives an absolutely jaw-dropping performance that won’t be easy to get out of your mind.

The second of the anthology installments concerns lawyer Julia (Ophélia Kolb), who does her best to patch up relations with her teenage daughter Chloé (Sidwell Weber) after not making enough time previously to connect with her. There’s a problem, though — Chloé is dead, having committed suicide after unrelenting school bullying.

Next, Pandemonium rounds back to the main story, as one of the vehicle accident victims learns what eternity holds in store for him, complete with demons and torture.

Quarxx has fashioned a truly macabre vision that puts its characters and viewers alike through the wringer, with set designs of the underworld that are simultaneously unsettling and wonderfully rendered. The cast members all give top-shelf performances, and the creature designs are splendid. 

Pandemonium commands viewers’ full attention. This is not light viewing for having friends over, unless everyone is keen on pondering existential questions about life after death afterward while disturbing images and thoughts are still running through their minds. Neither is this a fully bleak experience; occasional pitch-black humor and a dash of absurdity keep this film just above the “feel-bad movie of the year” category. Highly recommended for fright-fare aficionados of all stripes.

Pandemonium screened as part of  the 2023 Pigeon Shrine FrightFest, which ran August 24–28 in London. For more information, visit https://frightfest.co.uk/.

  • Joseph Perry, Pandemonium
Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.