folktales & fairytales

[Netflix Review] Zone Blanche/Black Spot Season 1 (2017) ★★★★☆

Laurene Weiss in the forest with a gun in Zone Blanche/Black Spot season 1

Zone Blanche brings an ominous forest to life with murder, mystery, drama and a supernatural twist. 


Zone Blanche or Black Spot is a French supernatural mystery crime series with some absurdist humor and an ominous creature in the woods. With drama, gruesome kills, strange murders and even stranger happenings, a little town in France is tormented by mysterious deaths that has something to do with the woods.

It has great cinematography a dark atmosphere some absurd humor and realistic but odd characters resulting in a unique series with a differentiated tone. It’s a crime series, but with a twist, that reminds of a toned down Twin Peaks. It’s highly addictive due to the mystery and some mysteries behind the main characters, and the small town life. 

This first season consists of 8 episodes with each a duration of 51-56 minutes. It has a crime-of-the-week structure while the bigger storyline about the mysteries continues and evolves. It is highly recommended to watch the series with its original French audio and with subtitles in your own language, if possible.


Plot

Villefranche, a small town nearby a vast ancient forest is tormented by gruesome deaths. Laurène Weiss is the sheriff who has to look into these deaths with her team consisting of police officer Nounours/Teddy, chief of police Louis Herman, and Camille Laugier, police officer in training and coroner Leïla Barami. 

When attorney Frank Siriani arrives to look into the investigations, things take an even sinister turn and secrets are unearthed. A few months earlier Marion the daughter of mayor Bertrand Steiner went missing. The Steiner family owns the mill and is responsible for a lot of jobs in the town, but is now closing and this reveals some shady businesses.

An activist group Children of Arduina is also stirring things up. A creature hides in the woods. And Laurène still struggles with a traumatic event that happend years ago in the woods. Everything is connected and Laurène has to unravel these mysteries soon, to hopefully find Marion in time. 


Why you should watch it

It’s a great mix between crime, a detective series, lots of mystery, some creepy supernatural elements and a lot of weird deaths and a missing girl. With drama, and some humor, odd characters who remain relatable and realistic, this series strongly reminds of Twin Peaks. The dark atmosphere, some surreal events, a troubled detective, a strange odd little town, isolated from the rest of the world, even a lumber mill, and the tangible feel of the dampness and vastness of the forest. And it also plays out like a drama/soap opera with hidden secrets, romances and difficult relationships.

Laurène is the heart of the series. A complicated woman with a trauma and a daughter Cora whom she has a complicated relationship with as with Bertrand, who is her secret lover. Laurène was kidnapped when she turned 18. Everyone who turns 18 has to undergo a ritual in the forest, but her ritual was interrupted and she was taken and held captive near some caves. She managed to escape, but she’s still looking for the man who kidnapped her. 

The other main character, who just like Cooper, stumbles right into the fun is Frank Siriani. He’s an odd character with all his allergies, his fears and as a real city man he’s totally out of place. But he has some secrets of his own. Although he is very uptight, he brings in some absurd dry humor and his hostile relationship with Laurène cools down bit by bit, which is a fun process to watch.

Asides from the quirky and willful characters the murders are evenly odd, and mysterious leading them to something ominous in the woods.

The woods and the animals are a character of its own. Like a sentient ecosystem the woods fight back to survive. Using original camera angles, the woods are coming to life, making it look like the woods are watching. Strange sounds that resemble animals but aren’t, give it a creepy feel and the whispers turn the woods into something dangerous and very much alive.

Asides from the animals that revolt, like crows and vipers, a wolf helps Laurène find a baby hidden in the woods. And a man-like creature with antlers shows up on a photograph as a ghost-like figure. It all seems to lead back to Celtic runes and drawings about a godlike being. 

The soap-like drama, the murders, the shady criminal businesses, the missing girl, the mystery what happened to Laurène and the woods with its supernatural element are well-crafted into a well balanced story, that develops in a very natural way. It’s an intriguing, interesting, fun and very addictive watch. 


My favorite part

I really liked Frank. He’s such an odd character and becomes even weirder because he is very out of place, like a fish out of water. He’s uncomfortable in his new surrounding due to his character, but also due to all of his allergies. His person is a big contrast to the life in Villefranche and they have as much difficulty to get used to him as he has to them. He is an indispensable character that brings in new life, contrast, friction and a fresh take to the scene. Without him it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. 

The way the supernatural elements are subtly woven into the storyline are excellently done. It adds to the eerie vibe and to the mystery making it an unusual watch and unpredictable, without losing grip on reality. 

Also subtly woven into the story is what mankind does to nature, pollution, forming a threat to nature in general, and that nature fights back, which develops in a very organic manner. It’s a series that is highly enjoyable in many different ways, with its own unique take and voice.


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Drama factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆


Read more about Zone Blanche:


Cast and crew

Zone Blanche is created by Mathieu Missoffe. It stars Suliane Brahim (Laurène Weiss), Hubert Delattre (Nounours), Laurent Capelluto (Frank Siriani), Samuel Jouy (Bertrand Steiner), Camille Aguilar (Cora), Renaud Rutten (Louis Hermann), Brigitte Sy (Sabine Hennequin), Naidra Ayadi (Leïla Barami) and Tiphaine Daviot (Camille Lausiger). 

Music: Thomas Couzinier, Frédéric Kooshmanian. Cinematography: Christophe Nuyens, Bruno Degrave. Production companies: Ego Productions, BE-FILMS, France Télévision, RTBF Télévision belge, Umedia, Wallimage, uFund. Original network: Netflix.


Check the trailer below