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Film review - CALVAIRE

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Posted 11th May 2011 at 09:37 AM by necroluciferia

There have been some great French language films in recent years and Fabrice Du Welz’s feature length debut is no exception (despite being Belgian!). The setting here is one you’ll probably be familiar with; urbanite gets lost in a rural village and falls victim to crazy hicks, but this is hardly a braindead slasher and the film has it’s own unique little twist on things.

Marc Stevens is on the road when his van breaks down. After a brief encounter with a strange young man out searching for his lost dog, he is towed to a nearby farmhouse by a seemingly rational and friendly bloke who offers to fix his van. Given that Marc doesn’t have too many options, he accepts and stays the night in the seemingly innocuous farmhouse where things seem to be all hunky-dory; no obvious sign that things aren’t going to work out for him just yet and truth be told I start to wonder if anything is ever going to happen at all!

The film does take a while to get going, with the first 35-40 minutes setting the scene and building tension, which very suddenly swings away from itself and takes a rapid descent into madness. Over a home-cooked dinner, we learn that Bartel’s (that’s the farmhouse keeper) wife left him, and he’s in fact rather lonely and miserable, and increasingly it becomes clear that he is very unstable. At this point I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, but you can also sense the discomfort felt by Marc as this man offloads his life-woes and the air is so tense you could cut it with a table knife. We learn that the ex-wife has a couple of things in common with Marc – mostly that they both are singers, but what unfolds as a result of this similarity is something I hardly think our victim had bargained for.

There’s a sense of realism to the way this is shot that emphasises the brutality and grimy tension. There isn’t much in the ways of soundtrack and the creepiness comes more directly from the performances coupled with the stark, dingy backdrop. The only music of note is a scene in a nearly bar when one of the locals bashes out an ominous tune on the piano which gets all the patrons up and swaying and there’s a real sense of madness to it all as it looks like a load of zombies in a lunatic asylum. Yes, it seems Bartel isn’t the only nutter in the village!

This film is truly unhinged; tense, brutal, claustrophobic and in places deliriously funny! If you’re looking for a Hollywood horror to watch on a Friday night then you’ll probably be disappointed, but if you want something a bit unusual then this is a great little movie.

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