July 16, 2005

Calvaire (2004)

(AKA The Ordeal)

"Marc Stevens’ world goes profoundly and utterly wrong. When his car breaks down in the middle of the isolated backcountry, he’s forced to seek refuge in a rural inn. Marc is taken in by Bartel, a lonely and psychologically fragile innkeeper who promises to help. But when Marc catches him dismantling his car, he realizes that the innkeeper has other plans for him – sadistic plans that will push him to the bounds of human pain and suffering."

I first watched "Calvaire" on Film Four (before it was free!) with the mistaken information that it was a Belgian horror film. It was a bit weird but I didn't realise that it was some kind of Christian message film with horrific scenes. Maybe the title should have given it away - Calvary - but I didn't think anything about Jesus (or the crucifixion) until the "hero", Marc Stevens, was crucified near the end of the film, and even then it still didn't click. Having watched it again recently, it still doesn't really make sense.

Even the innkeeper turning the pragged Marc into his ex-wife Gloria didn't make anything tumble in my mind. Calvary, Gloria, crucifixion... nope, I kept watching it expecting it to turn into that famous R. Chetwynd-Hayes story in "Tales of Fear and Fantasy" about a weird village of Satan worshippers that a potential suicide ends up in called "Manderville". (Trust me, you have to read this sometime! And it isn't the story of ghouls from "The Monster Club" film either though they are similar.)

Anyway, it didn't go that way - a weird bit of bestiality, a bit of torture, the innkeeper dressing Marc in women's clothes, cutting his hair off, crucifying him when he is captured after running away, and then finally Marc getting bum-raped by Belgian hillbillies before escaping across a frozen marsh. - none of it put me in mind of a Christian message at all! So when he didn't do anything at the end, and nothing was resolved, I just felt very let down by the whole film.

Up until the last ten minutes of the film, I was going to add this to my Video Vault with quite a high score, maybe 7 out of 10, but the denouement ruined the whole thing and so I'd give it 1 out of 10 instead.

Having to look up what a movie is about on the internet is not how things should be. It seems it is really all about people turning away from God, turning to false animal idols, and wanting Jesus back or something... well, it was way over my head!

Avoid this film unless you are an arty-farty buff who likes to pretend to know more than normal people. And do yourself a big favour and never watch a Belgian "horror film". I can now happily rate this film as "complete and utter crap".

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