Numbers are the stuff of real horror for me. I found out recently that I’m not stupid (well not entirely anyway) and the blind panic I experience when simple subtractions and additions are placed before me has a name. Dyscalculia is sort of like dyslexia except with letters instead of words, though giving it a label didn’t really make up for the fact that barely being able to subtract single figures isn’t necessarily a great thing for an already awkward kid to grow up with. Every maths teacher that taught me thought that explanations and help should be delivered with the scream of a mental person, and if you couple that with my natural aversion to authority figures (geddit?) and someone firing their stale coffee breath into my face at close range, you could say it made for a bad combination (not to mention some extremely poor exam grades).
It really makes you appreciate the power of a working calculator, that’s for damn sure.
Some people though, enjoy maths, I’ve seen them with their happy little faces scribbling away at algebraic formula like its natural, or normal to understand this stuff. They don’t even cry. Sometimes they even go on to do it as a career, scribbling gibberish on white boards like it all makes sense to them. These are the sort of folk that would have been burnt at the stake at the height of the Witch Craze in the Middle Ages … or at least they would have been by me, and I can’t say I wouldn’t consider it now, if I’m being honest.
I find envy can be a bitch, especially when she has access to a box of matches and a can of petrol.
Fermat’s Room is the story of four such mathematical masterminds who are invited to take part in a meeting of minds to solve ‘the greatest enigma of all time’. Being curious and obviously unsuspicious types, they drive to the middle of nowhere, sans their mobile phones (at the request of their unknown host), and taking on pseudonyms that they have been presented with, travel to an abandoned warehouse with no hint of apprehension about just what kind of gathering they’re expected to participate in.
Luckily its maths, being the thing they’re all collectively good at, which is a bit of a relief as those mad number skills are going to come in very handy if they want to make it through the night.
Granted the blurb of the film doesn’t really sound appealing to most people – be good at maths problems or die is basically how most of my teenage nightmares used to go, but this film is a shining example of why the European horror industry is kicking serious Hollywood arse, in terms of plot, acting, and cinematography.
Hands down, its one of the best psychological horror films I’ve seen in a very long time, and the script is second to none in terms of originality and snappy, straight to the point delivery. Comparisons with the 90s cult classic Cube and the Saw franchise are indeed warranted, but the film skips any sort of physical action or gore, for pure intensity, paranoia and extreme claustrophobia to deliver on every level.
To manage to make a movie about four mathematicians solving problems is a risky move, but Fermat’s Room manages to be both witty and intellectually stimulating, without once making the viewer feel patronised, or bored.
And I know bored … I’ve seen I Know What You Did Last Summer …