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Calvaire (Unrated)

Release Date: August 11th, 2006 (Cinema Village) by Palm Pictures.
The Cast: Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon, Jean-Luc Couchard, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursini.
Directed by Fabrice Du Welz.
In French with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: After his car breaks down deep in the woods, Marc (Lucas) stays overnight at an inn with a psychotic innkeeper (Berroyer).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Calvaire gradually develops into an atmospheric horror film with an engaging plot and interesting characters. As a cabaret singer, Marc has many loyal fans including an elderly woman who visits him backstage and briefly tries to seduce him as if he were her lover—a very clever foreshadow. He leaves town first thing in the morning with his car which breaks down on a narrow road in a foggy, dark wooded area. A strange man comes out of nowhere looking for his dog and directs Marc to a nearby inn. Jackie Berroyer gives a complex performance as Mr.Bartel, the innkeeper who seems nice at first but gradually becomes physically abusive toward Marc. At that point, the plot delves further into the horror genre as Mr.Bartel treats Marc as if he were his long-deceased wife. One scene involving bestiality and rape pushes the envelope of perversity a little too far. Even the woods alone will send shivers down your spine during a chase sequence. There are even a few moments of unexpected, off-beat humor such as a memorable dance sequence involving deranged men who live in the village. Fortunately, co-writer/director Frabrice Du Welz doesn’t rely on gore as a means to shock, but instead uses cinematography, lighting, set design and editing to create a psychologically horrifying atmosphere. There are also some interesting references to Jesus Christ including a brutal crucifixion scene and, of course, the film’s title which refers to Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. Any fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Straw Dogs and Misery will appreciate the homage director Frabrice Du Welz pays to those films while still managing to make this film engaging and ultimately haunting.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: By pretending that Marc is his wife, Mr.Bartel clearly yearns to be loved and to share his love, but his love quickly turns to lust and drives him into insanity. Other than that general message, none is required or desired.



IN A NUTSHELL: Stylish, deeply unnerving and haunting. A guilty pleasure.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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