Netflix’s gory, violent ‘The Decline’ best for those with a strong stomach

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Netflix / Bertrand Calmeau

Locked and loaded, the survivalist trainees led by Alain (left) get ready for their next training exercise in Netflix's "The Decline." The thriller was released March 27, a few weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home orders to flatten the rate of those testing positive for COVID-19. Image posted with permission from Netflix and photographer Bertrand Calmeau.

Sydnee Tallant

A few weeks into California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order to flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve, Netflix released a Quebec-produced film aptly titled, “The Decline.”

One can easily fill in the blanks after these two words: 

“The Decline … of motivation to do school work.”

“The Decline … of seeing friends and family.”

“The Decline … of the U.S. economy.”

After watching this nearly 90-minute Canadian thriller, it’s clear what kind of fall director Patrice Laliberté has in mind as he mixes tons of violence and gore with dark humor.

Released March 27, the film introduces us to Antoine (Guillaume Laurin, “Jojo Rabbit”), who is obsessed with human survival and receives an invitation from his role model, Alain (Real Bosse, “The Far Shore”), to an exclusive survivalist training camp. 

Of course, Antoine accepts and leaves his family to join a hidden camp in Quebec’s Laurentian mountain region with five other guests: Rachel (Marie Lessard, “Cerebrum”), Francois (Marc Grondin, “Mafia Inc”), David (Marc Beaupre, “Le 422”), Anna (Marilyn Castonguay, “C’est comme ca que je t’aime”) and Sebastien (Guillaume Cyr, “The New Life Of Paul Sneijder”). Together, they learn from Alain how to hunt, set up traps for animals and improve cooking and fighting skills. 

The group shares a friendly bond and become closer as friends over time. Their continuous teamwork helps them in many ways. Compared to the other members, David is rather antisocial and strange. He has a hard time agreeing with the member’s opinions and he becomes frustrated easily. 

Another character who really stands out is Rachel, who plays the feminist role and knows how to fight to protect herself unlike some trainees at the camp. Lessard deserves praise for one of the best scenes in which she challenges the guys to a wrestling match and playfully beats all of them.

As with most thrillers, the conflict occurs when one of the survivalist tasks involving grenades goes extremely wrong, blowing up one of the members aka gory scene No. 1. The question that the trainees and the audience eventually have is whether the camp leader has evil intentions for his survivalist students, and if so, how will they outwit Alain. 

Lailberte also likes to insert several contrasts. The daytime scenery, for example, features beautiful mountain snow-capped landscapes, but late at night the camp seems eerie and dark.

Another strong contrast arrives when Antoine enters the camp leader’s cabin and is about to ask a serious question but stops to admire how beautifully Alain plays “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven on the piano.

Overall, if viewers can handle lots of gore and profanity (it’s rated “MA” for mature), definitely give it a shot. Suspense is definitely not on the decline with this film.