Seuls

3 out of 5 

Directed by: David Moreau

A lot happens in Seuls: within 90 minutes we need to meet and bond with a group of five teen kids, establish the premise in which they wake up in an otherwise empty world – no adults, no other kids, but also no bodies or clear signs of what may have occurred – and then begin to throw a continual stream of mystery box concepts at / around them (unseen people watching from afar; cryptic voices over a CB radio), and then also start to nudge things toward the supernatural, with an omnipresent, destructive fog which is preventing them from leaving town. They are shuffled from locale to locale – emptied hotels, office buildings – and gifted with plot-helping items like ready-to-drive cars, and weapons for protecting against these unseen / unknown forces. 

The ‘mystery box’ term might give you memories of a somewhat similar setup, and a character in Seuls namechecks Walking Dead. Y the Last Man and some other references come to mind. 

But that 90 minute runtime necessitates keeping this moving, and the supernatural / mystery aspects give us wiggle room to not question the logic of everything, so Seuls does successfully entertain – or at least keep us distracted – with a well-cast set of principles, who have a nice and natural odd couple (or quintuple) bond, and a smart application of budget, focusing on quality production design to set a somber and unsettling mood. There’s a certain point, though, where so many curiosities have stacked up without answer or exploration, and you’ll recognize that that runtime is pretty limiting; can we actually resolve things within that time? Wouldn’t the expansivess of this tale be better suited for TV? 

Seuls is based on a 13-volume comic series by writer Fabien Vehlmann and artist Bruno Gazzotti. Which I adore. While I was impressed with the way the story here was compressed and rearranged, it’s also necessarily simplified – in all ways: conceptually; its characters – and the way they provide a half-conclusion, only to (spoiler) sequel bait, is very problematic, as it’s both too pat and too open-ended. And stepping outside of my comic-adoring point of view, that simplification makes all those “it’s like X show / movie” comparisons a lot easier: Seuls, in this format, is just a well-made hodge podge of seen-before ideas. 

That doesn’t conflict with it still being a successful distraction, nor is it a disappointing adaptation, really; in both cases, there’s enough meat here to point you back to the source material – either out of curiosity or as a refresher on how much more it contains – and though the flick can’t stick the landing, the competence of its structure that urges us to keep watching up through that final stretch is admirable in its own right .