Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Stars: Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon
Calvaire often gets accused of ripping off films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance… I think it’s even better than them both!
The French always shock me in the quality of horror films they produce. France really know what horror is about and produce some of the most disturbing and grisly films I have ever seen. “High Tension”, “Frontiers”, “Martyrs”, “Inside”, “Seven Days”. All of these films are different in their style and story lines, but they all share two things in common, they’re French and they are some of the best horror films to ever grace our screens. And now we can add “The Ordeal”. I don’t know why it took me so long to actually get hold of “The Ordeal” but this Christmas I thought that I’d finally get my hands on it just to see if it is as good as the rest I’ve listed. And I can safely say that this is one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
“The Ordeal” should be a horror classic. It’s one of the scariest, disturbing and unique horror films I have ever witnessed. It is so intriguing and expertly executed and also very well acted. I also think it’s important to watch it without knowing much about it, don’t read any reviews or watch any clips or trailers, all you need to know is it’s about a singer’s car who breaks down and he goes on quite a terrifying ordeal which is complete demented brilliance. I’ll try not to spoil things too much, but if I were you I wouldn’t read this review either.
I loved “The Ordeal” and would put it up there in my top 10 horror films, just for it being genuinely really scary. What makes everything so terrifying is that Marc Stevens is the only sane person we meet throughout the entire film, he’s someone who we can relate to, but he can’t relate to anyone else. As soon as his car breaks down their is this fantastic feeling of dread that carries on and increases throughout the film, as things begin to get even more insane.
“The Ordeal” also doesn’t pull stops. It’s not afraid to go the extra mile to shock, yet it can still shock without showing any violent imagery. There are some sequences in “The Ordeal” that will always stick with me, I know it will be a film i will never forget and will definitely be revisiting more than once! It feels like their are so many iconic moments, and it should be a 5 star horror classic! It is also amazingly shot, it feels very realistic despite its often outlandish behaviour, thanks to the use of long drawn out shots, as well as a genius use of camera work during the dinner which takes dizzying intensity to a whole new level. You can also feel a lot of sympathy for the main character who just seems like a regular nice man who really does not deserve any of the extreme abuse he receives. Everyone is crazy except Marc Stevens, combining this with long shots of the outside country, you get a really terrifying feel of isolation.
It can often feel quite funny, and I can imagine a lot of people laughing at what is going on, but for me I found the unnatural actions so absurd and disturbing that I couldn’t do anything but feel petrified like the character! The writing is spectacular and combines a whole mix of new and vibrant ideas that are incredibly original. Sometimes it throws in moments that are never explained or mentioned which makes for very disturbing viewing, like the random people who stand in the background in red hooded coats, or the really disturbing villagers dance in the pub.
I do feel that I need to talk about the ending. “The Ordeal” comes to a rather inconclusive and abrupt ending and I didn’t know how to take that. At first I thought that it brought the whole film down and it deserved a proper closed narrative, but then I thought that it ended perfectly on a rather disturbing note. I was expecting a big twist or explanation for why the villagers behaved like they did but their wasn’t one, which only adds another big stroke to why “The Ordeal” is really so scary and disturbing.
I know I’ve gone on quite a bit here, but right now I am really in love with this film. It is beautifully shot with some perfect cinematography and offers an extremely twisted, disturbing narrative that is sure to haunt your mind and nightmares. Basically to me it’s a horror classic and is basically horror perfection. It is completely gripping, highly original and quite simply unforgettable. I can’t wait to watch “The Ordeal” again.