The French not only have a word for it, they have a terrifically unnerving movie that exemplifies it, too. With a Friend Like Harry…, a suspenseful and delightfully creepy French drama about a seemingly forgettable man who insinuates himself unforgettably into the lives of an ordinary couple on a vacation with their three little daughters, is exquisitely attuned to the pleasures of ”frisson.” That’s the feeling of exquisite emotional excitement for which the hairs on the back of one’s neck were made. It’s those moments of thrill, often spiced with anticipation and cold dread, for which the medium of movies is so perfectly suited and so imperfectly served.
If Alfred Hitchcock is the master, the young French director Dominik Moll is an apt pupil, introducing menace as casually as Harry (Sergi López from ”Western”) takes over the lives of Michel (Laurent Lucas), his wife, Claire (Mathilde Seigner), and their kids. Harry says he’s an old schoolmate of Michel’s. Harry says he’s got solutions for whatever bourgeois problems are troubling Michel and Claire. Harry offers help that’s sometimes indistinguishable from threat, and with each gesture, Michel’s family falls apart a little more. López plays Harry as the soul of averageness, a houseguest whose worst fault is that he overstays his welcome.
Moll, meanwhile, shoots the French countryside as paradise and hell, separated by a thin line of madness. Here’s the dark side of the bucolic — a place of goose bumps.