The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE NIGHT OF THE 12TH | The Movie Waffler


A grisly unsolved murder gets under the skin of two detectives.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Dominik Moll

Starring: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Anouk Grinberg, Théo Cholbi, Johann Dionnet, Thibault Evrard, Julien Frison, Paul Jeanson, Mouna Soualem

The Night of the 12th poster

Some thrillers opt for a whodunit approach, leaving the audience to guess who the perpetrator of a particular crime might be among various suspects. Others opt for the more Hitchcockian/Columbo method of revealing the killer's identity early on in order to mine suspense from the premise. Like David Fincher's Zodiac, Dominik Moll's The Night of the 12th is a thriller that doesn't fit into either category as it's based on a real life case that has never been solved.

The Night of the 12th review

We're told upfront that the film we're about to see is a fictionalised version of the investigation of one of the 20% of French homicides that go unsolved. The real life case was detailed by author Pauline Guéna as one of several such cases in her book '18.3 – Une année à la PJ', a deep dive into a year's worth of homicide investigations by the French police.

21-year-old Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier) leaves a party just after 3am and is approached by a hooded and masked man who douses her in flammable material before setting her alight. The following morning she is found dead from her injuries. Assigned to the case are detectives Yohan (Bastien Bouillon), a young taciturn, by-the-book type of cop, and his veteran partner Marceau (Bouli Lanners), who has seen it all and is bearing the emotional scars of both his grim occupation and his failing marriage.

The Night of the 12th review

Though we know Yohan and Marceau will ultimately fail in their quest to find Clara's killer, we're sucked into their investigation to such a degree that we forget this detail. Every time a suspect is ruled out for some reason, it comes as both a surprise and a disappointment. And the suspects are numerous. Clara seems to have lead a sexually promiscuous life, with a litany of past male lovers. Every one of them is a creep in their own way, from the budding rapper who uploads a song to YouTube in which he details the violence he wishes to enact upon her in revenge for being dumped, to a basement-dwelling youngster who giggles like The Joker while being questioned, to a weirdo who lives in a nearby shed, to a brute with a history of domestic abuse - they're a reprehensible bunch to a man. Nothing sticks to any of them however, to the frustration of both the investigating cops and the scornful audience. When Marceau loses his cool and begins beating on one of them, even the most ardent ACAB types will be willing him on. Even if they didn't kill Clara, don't these men deserve some sort of punishment, you might ask. There's a saying often attributed to the Arab world that goes something like "Beat your wife every day; if you don’t why, she will," and Moll's film almost seems to argue for a gender reversal of this notion. "Perhaps all men killed Clara," Yohan muses at one point.

The real life case occurred on the outskirts of Paris but Moll's version takes place in the alpine city of the Grenoble. With the drama playing out in the shadow of large mountains, and the recurring image of a beautiful blond girl whose secret sexual life may have lead to her death, it's impossible not to think of Twin Peaks as an influence on Moll's film. David Lynch famously wanted Laura Palmer's murder to never be solved, but was forced to acquiesce by the network. In Moll's frustrating drama we can see the point Lynch was trying to make by lining up so many suspects, none of whom were meant to be identified as the sole killer. Girls like Laura and Clara are victims of more than just a single assailant.

The Night of the 12th review

The crime at the centre of Moll's film also bears similarities to that of Flavio Mogherini's 1977 Australian giallo The Pyjama Girl Case, itself based on a famous unsolved murder. Unlike Lynch and Mogherini, Moll opts not to imagine the final days of Clara, leaving us with more images of her charred, lifeless body than the vibrant young woman we briefly see in the opening. All we learn of Clara's life is through lurid accounts from uncaring men, with her best friend, Stéphanie (Pauline Serieys), holding back details of her sex life in order to protect her from what she views as the police's attempt to suggest she was "asking for it." As we were lead to expect, the film ends on a glum note with Clara's murder relegated to a growing pile of cold cases. We're left with no idea of who killed her, or who she really was, but we know a little more of the society that doomed her.

The Night of the 12th is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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