Monday, February 05, 2007


Fabrice Du Welz | 2004 | 94 min | France

Although far from perfect, this film is a great antidote to the rancid attempted-thriller Haute Tension. Like that film, Calvaire also features a young traveller finding themselves in quiet French countryside that is soon to be disrupted by screams of terror. Where the former film quickly slipped into chase scenes + nonsense, however, the latter keeps the anxiety at a steady climb. This is a take on movies like Misery + Deliverance, but filtered through the gory surrealism of early David Lynch + Wes Craven. From the opening scenes, Du Welz expertly crafts uncomfortable situations for us to endure with the protagonist, + that discomfort never lets up.

Calvaire is not without problems, though. Du Welz also borrows a fair amount of Lynch's 'weird for the sake of weird' style. It is eerily effective more often than not, but sometimes the plot relying on everything being set in Hidden Crazytown is a bit much. Luckily, the film is saved by an ending that is both understated + haunting. It is aided considerably by the photography, done in cool, muted hues with a concentration on the wilderness. The look + sound design really belie the action. Not that this film soft-peddles the more visceral aspects of horror, but it doesn't tread anywhere near the gore-porn territory of bullshit films like the Hills Have Eyes remake. The real scares are in how common the torturers + their tortures seem. Even if you have a strong stomach + a long list of horror films you have enjoyed, this one is still going to have you feeling. . . concerned.

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