Stranded somewhere in the Ardennes after his van breaks down, Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas “Harry He’s Here To Help”), a travelling cabaret singer, is taken in by a kindly inn keeper who offers to fix his van and give him shelter for the night. But the motivation for the innkeeper’s kind actions soon changes from altruism to a fervent desire to prevent his new guest from ever leaving. The thing is Marc reminds the lonely inn-keeper of his long-lost wife. Before Marc knows it, his van is sabotaged and he is stranded. But this is only the start of his ordeal and what follows has to be seen to be believed… “The Ordeal” (aka “Calvaire”) delivers a terrifying and darkly comic tale of obsession, kidnap, and borderline psychosis that brings to mind films such as “Deliverance”, “Straw Dogs” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but that has a continental flavour very much its own.
2004 – Certificate: 18 – Rating Details: Strong bloody violence – Belgium Film – 5.0 out of 10
I don’t drink a lot of wine; (except ginger wine, but I’m not sure that really counts). I don’t know a lot about it either. I know it comes in three colours, bottles or boxes, sometimes it’s fizzy and in France they feed babies with it, but other than that… So imagine my surprise when I sat down on Friday evening and found myself drinking an excellent 2004, organic Merlot from the Central Valley of Chile. (Actually I bought it from Majestic Wines in Reading a number of years ago, due to my misunderstanding its rules about having to buy at least 12 bottles at a time; but you know what I mean.) I think I probably selected it based on four things; it was organic, it was vegan, it wasn’t from France and it was strong (14% vol). That’s basically how I select wine; although do generally prefer rosé wine because I can put it in the fridge and drink it cold, without the wine police raiding my home; and it’s a more interesting colour than white wine. I’m not especially a fan of red wine, but this was actually pretty nice. I’d had it laid down in my wine cellar for nearly ten years. (I don’t like to brag, but my personal wine cellar is a small rack I bought from Argos that sits on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my hall.) I actually had to wipe all the dust off the bottle before opening it. Along with the bollocks written on the label and the lack of a hangover the next day, that pretty well demonstrates just how authentically high-quality it really was. In fact it was nice enough for me to finish off the whole bottle on my own whilst watching this film. With hindsight, it’s probably just as well, as this movie was a bit like the wine bottle’s label.
Well, this was all a bit rubbish. Weirdly, it seems to have a number of fans at IMDB, but really, it’s not very good. For a start it’s not funny. The sleeve says it is but it isn’t, unless it’s being ironic and we’re supposed to laugh at it because it’s so bad. The continuity is dreadful. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but to me it just looked like the weather changed from shot to shot; in one case from no snow at all to a thick layer of snow on the ground, in the middle of a chase. I’m sure dealing with weather is a nightmare for filmmakers, but most seem to manage. I didn’t find any of the characters the least bit sympathetic, not even the victim, although I think that was intentional; the guy was a stupid, boring wuss and his singing was crap too. There were just too many random incidents that really don’t go anywhere or explain anything. And at times the editing was more jarring than dropping to sub-light speed; (probably, as I’ve not actually done the latter, yet). Maybe I’m being a bit mean. Some of the cinematography is actually very impressive, the acting decent and the bizarre dance the guys do in the pub was nearly worth it for the wtf moment it provides. But no, actually I’m not. It’s entertaining in its own way, but I preferred my bottle of wine.
This movie has a very space soundtrack, very sparse. I guess what there is of it works well.
The trailer makes the film look a lot more horrific, a lot faster and more action packed than it really is.
Movie Weather Forecast. Heavy rain, followed by entirely random sunny spells, snow and rain showers, with the latter sometimes settling and sometimes melting very, very quickly, before suddenly coming back again. Cold at all times, but not so cold that a thin jumper won’t keep you warm enough.
Recommended for inn-keepers, cabaret singers and farmers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? This is a movie with far too many arbitrary happenings in it, but credit where credit’s due. The random dance by the guys in the village pub is completely inexplicable, creepy and downright weird. Somehow (and I can’t really explain why), that makes it pretty badass.
Far be it for me to ever admit I have any sort of imperfections, but up until a few years ago I used to bite my nails. Then one day I realised I’d more or less stopped doing it. Weird isn’t it? I’ve no idea what made me stop, but there you go. One of life’s little mysteries. This isn’t really a film about biting fingernails, which is probably a positive thing as I can’t imagine it would be very entertaining if it was. It’s more about someone who’s ambitious at work, who over-stretches herself and as a result of an accident at a partly, starts to self-harm in increasingly extreme ways. I really wanted to feel sorry for Esther, the main character in this movie. After all, she clearly has some big issues she needs to deal with and I’m a nice, caring person; no, really I am. Trouble is, she was basically a selfish bitch and I got the feeling she always had been. Decent job, caring boyfriend, intelligent, but still managing to be a bitch to everyone, but in that sneaky way only the clever ones can be. She also uses these same ‘skills’ to hide her new ‘hobby’ from those around her, or at least hide enough of what she does to give them an excuse not to do anything to help her, because that’s easier isn’t it? I bet they felt pretty bad about it all after the film ended (if that makes any sense)? Not that I liked any of them really, not my type at all. Pretty boring, dull, unpleasant people the lot of them.
2002 – Certificate: 18
Rating Details: Frequent bloody images of self-mutilation
This is an interesting, intense, French horror. It’s weird how a country that managed to invent a type of bread that’s so impractical it doesn’t actually fit into anyone’s shopping bag (stupid or what), also manages to produce some really great horrors. Its self-harming scenes are genuinely unsettling; it’s the sound and the look on Esther’s face more than just simply the gory bits. It has very good effects and it has to be said the acting is excellent too. I was glad I hadn’t eaten before watching it. The scene with the arm during the meal in the restaurant is a bit surreal though and sort of doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the rest of the film.
No cats and no decapitations.
Recommended for people into slow, intense, quiet horror, with a high “eew factor”. Not recommended for people who get grossed out during first aid training courses.
Top badass moment? In the words of the Smiths, “I tried but I failed”. There’re no characters in this movie with enough redeeming qualities to qualify them as badass. They weren’t exactly bad, but none had that self-sacrificing ‘hero quality’ that I was looking for. Move along now, nothing to see here; just a lot of flawed humans.