Director – Kim Chapiron
Cast – Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy, Roxane Mesquida, Nico Le Phat Tan, Ladj Ly, Leïla Bekhti, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Gérald Thomassin, Quentin Lasbazeilles
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had been hearing some pretty unique things about French horror film Sheitan for quite some time, but the opportunity to review the film had yet to come my way…until now. The film’s overall plot did not seem like anything truly unique, so I was unsure of the remarks I had heard regarding the film being a creative watch. Well, I must admit that Sheitan exceeded my expectations, and while I expected something along the lines of the so-so Calvaire, I was given something better.
It is Christmas Eve and Bart(Olivier Barthelemy) and two of his friends are partying hard at the Styxx Club in Paris. They befriend Yasmine(Leïla Bekhti) and Eve(Roxane Mesquida), an attractive bartender and one of the party girls, and after a fight ensues at the club they embark on a roadtrip to Eve’s countryside home. When they arrive they are greeted by the odd caretaker of the farm, Joseph(Vincent Cassel; Irreversible, Black Swan), who takes a peculiar liking to Bart. Little do the friends know, they are in for the Christmas of their lifetimes…the last Christmas they will ever see.
The French have put out some pretty solid films since 2000, and you can chalk on Sheitan to that list of films. It does not hit nearly as hard as Martyrs, Inside, Frontier(s), or High Tension, but Sheitan managed to give me a pretty unique watch thanks to its interesting story and some positive direction.
Time and time again I have seen films involving a group of friends going home with someone they barely met but for some reason fully trust, and then find themselves in a terrible situation that they never saw coming. I personally enjoy these films because they usually come with good and understandable conflict, but Sheitan gives us more than that. You know right from the moment that Joseph is introduced that despite his good and helpful nature he is going to cause problems for the group, and he is used expertly to deliver some good tension. The majority of the film plays off the friends having a good time in Eve’s home, although they are constantly reminded of their ill-feelings towards the creepy Joseph, but their naïve nature to party as much as they can gets in the way of proper judgment. We get quite a few colorful characters thrown into the mix, and the screenplay was tight and consisted of just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me engaged throughout the film. Usually a film that takes place in very few locations must deliver some good writing and direction to keep things going, and Sheitan’s writers, Christian and Kim Champiron added a unique element that I never saw coming. I figured there had to be something fishy going on with Joseph and the other odd townsfolk, but I never expected there to be an awesome satanic element thrown in. I will not go into big detail, but I must say that the usage of the satanic sequences were very cool, and added a nice twist to a film that was following a often-used plot.
Director Kim Champiron did a fine job executing the film, and got the most out of his biggest selling point…Vincent Cassel’s acting performance. Joseph was obviously the most colorful and awesome character in the film, and Cassel steals every scene he is in with his powerful yet playful persona. As with most French films the scenery is great, and we get awesome visuals and unique camerawork a well. The sets involved were great and unique in their own right, with the Eve’s home taking up around 75% of the screen time, and delivering many dark and creepy corners for bad things to happen in. The horror involved is well executed, and we get some close-up gory and…gooey action thrown in as well. As I mentioned earlier, the Satanic element was well written into the film, and thankfully…its execution was just as great.
Overall, this is another positive entry from the French horror scene that delivers some good horror and a unique story. While not as hard-hitting as Martyrs, Inside, or Frontier(s), Sheitan manages to deliver a solid watch that is sure to please those of you looking for something different in the genre.