Calvaire – 5

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Director – Fabrice Du Welz

Cast – Laurent Lucas, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigny, Jean-Luc Couchard, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon, Philippe Grand’Henry

Release Year – 2004

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Well, given France’s stranglehold this decade on the horror real I was really looking forward to this flick.  The French have put out some great horror films this decade like Inside, Martyrs, Frontier(s), Them, and High Tension so naturally I went into this film with some moderately high expectations.  At first I found that to be a bit problematic because I came out of this film unfulfilled, but realized that regardless of my prejudice this film really just isn’t that good.

This flick follows a traveling singer named Marc Stevens(Laurent Lucas) who takes to the road for a Christmas trip.  His van breaks down in a remote area of the Hautes Fagnes region of Leige, and he acquires the help of an odd man looking for his dog.  The man leads Marc to a nearby inn with a homely caretaker named Bartel(Jackie Berroyer), who promises to fix his van in the morning.  The longer Marc is at the inn, the more he realizes that there is something not right with the old caretaker.  Marc’s attempts to get help sent his way are futile, and he is in for a Christmas he will never forget.

This is honestly the very first time that I have been let down by a French horror film.  Sure I have not seen EVERY French horror film, but I have seen more than enough to marvel at the fact that it took this long for French horror cinema to let me down.  Take a wild guess at how long it took American horror cinema to let me down.  Yeah, exactly.  Now this flick really is not a bad film per say, it just was not enjoyable for me.  Director Fabrice Du Welz did a moderate job with this film overall, but excelled greatly with his cinematography.  The brilliant color tones mixed with dark and moody settings really set the beautiful yet untrustworthy atmosphere for this film.  Almost as if his use of cinematography was metaphoric of the character of the caretaker.  Du Welz’s camera angles in this film were equally awesome, with one of the later scenes in the film leaving me in awe at how awesome that scene was set up, and the technicals involved in making that scene happen.

The story for this film is an interesting one, and is on I had yet to see in French horror.  It honestly reminded me a bit of the Steven King adaptation “Misery”.  Bartel resembled Kathy Bates’ character in the film, with a few other interesting things thrown in personality wise.  I really liked how as the film went on we see more and more characters resemble Bartel in how they see delusionally see Marc.  Interesting stuff indeed.

One of my biggest complaints with this film was that it just was not executed properly, both with it’s writing and direction.  The story was an interesting one, but during the second movement it did not add many interesting aspects to the film and therefore allowed the film to drag a bit.  Whatever you do, don’t take any drowsy medicine before the second act begins or you will definitely sleep your way through the third act. Haha. I also blame the direction a bit for this film dragging because despite the writing leaving the film to lag a bit, there could have been other elements thrown in to improve the pacing and viewer interest a big.  I was taken back by this film’s conclusion as well.  I wouldn’t say that it is a bad ending, but I was left saying to myself “Oh, it’s over? That’s it?”.

Overall, this is a mediocre film that did not impress me overall, but shows that this director does know how to create a visually appealing film.  The writing really takes a toll on the film and I was left with an un-positive experience.

Rating: 5/10

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