"The Murdered House," a fabulist French mystery, milks the same provincial malevolence that powered the greedy villains of "Jean de Florette" and provoked the revenge of "Manon of the Spring." It is not as accomplished as either, but it is a reasonably intriguing, rather quixotic tale.
Set in remote, clannish La Burliere, it begins with the gruesome mass murder of a farm family in 1896 and picks up in 1920 when the only survivor, a World War I veteran, returns to the village. Seraphin Monge, who was a baby in his cradle at the time of the killings, knew he was an orphan but not that his family had been slaughtered. Once told by a buttinsky road-mender, he becomes obsessed with learning who dunnit.
Patrick Bruel is the moody Seraphin, whose return frightens the villagers, a sneaky and superstitious bunch with much to hide. Eventually, however, Seraphin unearths clues that implicate the baker, the miller and the former blacksmith, all of whom owed his father enormous sums of money. Obsessed with avenging his family, he decides to kill the three, one by one. But somebody gets to them first. Matters are further complicated when the daughters of all three suspects woo the taciturn hero.
This fairly savory tale is based on "La Maison Assassinee," a novel by Pierre Magnan adapted for the screen by director Georges Lautner. Though murky and rather slackly paced, like an unpretentious little wine, it has a certain je ne sais quoi.
The Murdered House, at the KB Janus, is in French with subtitles and is not rated.