Movie Reviews 106 – Calvaire (2004)

CalvaireI seem to be on a Euro Torture horror binge of late having recently watched A Serbian Film, then Martyrs and now Calvaire (or “The Ordeal” if you prefer the translated title) from Belgium. I actually watched this in French without any subs and even my Quebecois was good enough to understand everything except some of the low volume muttering dialogue. But the story is pretty evident with visuals alone, and there are indeed some pretty dark visuals here.

Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) is a traveling singer that hops from one venue and town to another, putting on a one man singing show. Finishing off a performance at an old folks home, he heads off to his next gig when his van breaks down during the rainy night in a fog enshrouded forest. A young man searching for his lost dog brings him to the deserted Bartel Inn where Mr. Bartel puts him up for the night without much comment.

The following morning Marc is glad to see that Bartel and Boris, the young lad he met the previous night, have towed his van to the Inn. Bartel phones the local mechanic, but it appears he is out for the day, but no worries, Bartel himself will take a look at the van. Bartel is more than happy to accommodate his new tenant, as he professes that he too was once an entertainer by trade, a former comedian in fact. He urges Marc to enjoy the grounds and take a walk while he works on the van, but before leaving he implores Marc to not go to the village, makes him promise in fact.

It turns out the villagers are the least of Marc’s worries as we soon find out that Bartel has no interest in fixing the van. Bartel’s only interest is Marc himself. At first the excuses are taken at face value, but when Marc finds some damning evidence that Bartel has been prying in Marc’s equipment, he soon finds himself prisoner at the desolate Inn with a delusional Bartel.

There are a few ‘backwoods’ Deliverance inspired scenes with some of the local boys at the watering hole, but most of the violence is delivered by Bartel himself both unto Marc or whoever stands is his way.

Like most Euro offerings, most of the movie is slow and subtle, but when the gloves come off little is spared in the way of gore and horror. But it’s the slow build up the lends credibility and realism that enhances the horror.  Chalk up another winner from across the pond.

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