If I'd stopped to fully think through the implications of "a French thriller set in a hospital" I might not have gone to see "Who Killed Bambi?" I'll spell it out for you: the film is awash in syringes, botched anesthesia, and cranium saws. So, if you're squeamish about all things medical, you have been warned. That said, I am glad I went, because "Who Killed Bambi?" is stylish, powerful, and, like all good thrillers, leaves more of its horrors to the imagination than it actually shows.
"Bambi" is the nickname the creepy surgeon Dr. Phillip (Laurent Lucas) gives Isabella, the pretty young nursing school intern with the doe eyes. Played by newcomer Sophie Quinton, Isabella is smart and alert, but also terribly innocent: a perfect combination for the would-be detective who is the first to see through the nefarious events at the hospital, and thereby become the most likely next victim.
"He spends his whole life at the hospital," Isabella's orderly boyfriend Sami (Yasmine Belmadi) says of Dr. Phillip, and Isabella's answer is symptomatic for the entire film: "So do we." Rarely does the camera leave the sterile hallways and anti-septic rooms of the building (or Bambi's overcrowded dorm, conveniently next door), and the moody claustrophobia is compounded by the abuse patients risk while they're unconscious. In this hospital, you might sleep through a rape but wake up during surgery.
Director Gilles Marchand's carefully fine-tuned menace begins to crumble during the final reel when he tries to push the fear past its breaking point, but a few missteps can be easily forgiven. "Who Killed Bambi?" is a compelling thriller that never pretends to be smarter than the audience. My favorite scene involves no surgery implements or anesthesia, but a seemingly innocuous party game that turns into a means of power and humiliation in the hands of criminal psychopath. "Who Killed Bambi?" kept me squirming in my seat for its entire running time--and if you're watching a thriller, that's a good thing.