Dir: Veronique Jadin, Belgium, 1h18min
Workplace related horror has become more of a subject in the past couple of years, and with the increasing strife with the workforce and the people in charge, it might be one that will continue to provide a setting for films such as EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH. This film follows Ines (Jasmina Douieb), a secretary at a cleaning supplies company branch, who has been overworked at her job and sees her male co-workers getting the fruits of her labor. It appears as if nothing will ever change until an accident occurs when the manager of the office, Patrick (Peter Van Den Begin), tries to assault Ines to dissuade her from asking for a raise. She is saved by the new intern, Melody (Laetitia Mampaka), whose entrance leads to Patrick getting impaled by his Manager of the Year award. A comedy of errors ensues as Ines and Melody try to clean up the mess, all the while uncovering corrupt business practices.
Veronique Jadin, who directed and co-wrote the film (with Nina Van Spranghe), works with the constraints
of the small-scale business office that 90% of the film takes place in. The cold and muted color tones as
as a prison that Ines has been trapped in for all of these years, and the events of the film are her acting out a means of escaping that nine-to-five captivity. Given how she is portrayed as the sacrificial lamb to everyone else’s benefit within the company branch, it is nice that Ines isn’t a one note victim in the film. She embodies a clean freak mentality, showing how much of her work has become a part of her life. Even as the bodies pile up, the mess they make is always on her mind. but she loosens up a bit as she takes some drugs and alcohol which empowers her to take more action against the co-workers who abused her for so long.
The portrayal of the men in this environment might rub people the wrong way, as most of them are
seen as lazy, incompetent, stupid, or just ignorant, having grown comfortable with the lifestyle
their shady practices have allowed them. I think it works in this context, given modern views of
the worker/employer relationship and how that’s portrayed in films such as MAYHEM. Especially since the representative for the company that comes to visit them, Anna Nilsson, is female, this encompasses the general corporate ladder abuse of power than just gender politics (although that is there too). These themes give the film a universal attachment that transcends the regional and language barriers.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH operates more as a black comedy than straight up horror, but it works as a fun power fantasy trip. The Ines – Melody relationship that forms over the course of the day is established well, despite their age differences and views on the job, taking advantage of the situation to take revenge on those who took advantage of them. Ultimately, one’s own enjoyment will vary depending on how the broad unlikability of the male co-workers rubs off on your sensibilities. The film does take a while for Ines to let loose and embrace her situation, but when it does, seeing her develop into a more proactive character who wants her fair share in life is worthwhile.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH is screening as part of Screamfest 2022 in Los Angeles from October 11th through October 20th.
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