Director: Kim Chapiron
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy, Roxane Mesquida
At the beginning of the film, a DJ looks towards us and asks “Are you ready for this?” And the answer is “No.” You can never prepare for a film like Satan and the less you know about it the better. Just imagine if The Ordeal committed incest to Frontiers and its demented and completely unhinged child turned out to be Satan. That’s the kind of film you’re going to get here people. Now although Satan doesn’t quite reach the superior heights of Calvaire or Frontiers, it nevertheless proves that France know the definition of the word ‘horror’. I very nearly gave Satan a 9/10, but I couldn’t really give it anything less than a 10 because Satan actually scared me. Now this is a big thing for me as horror films never scare me. The last films to properly scare me were The Ordeal and Noroi: The Curse (and the ending to Sinister). By the time Satan had finished I had chills all down my spine, and those chills lasted for quite some time. Satan is a horror masterpiece.
Now, I can totally see why Satan has such a low rating and why people slag it off all the time because it really is not your typical horror film. You may go into it expecting a slasher, but Satan is so much more than that. It relies heavily on atmosphere and suspense, and even when the slasher elements do arrive, they are anything but formulaic of the genre! For most people Satan will look like a messy exploitation film, and you may very well think it to be the worst film you’ve ever seen. But if you ‘get’ it and all its horrific brilliance, then you are in for one of the best horror films of the decade. Now many films leave me feeling horrified, but this left me with my jaw nearly on the floor, in complete shock of what I’ve just watched. And I regard myself as a connoisseur of the genre.
From its opening titles Satan completely caught my eye. I was just praying that all the negative reviews I’d read were wrong, because a truly brilliant film deserves titles and an opening as stylish as this. The night club scene is fabulously directed and carries such a wonderful stuffy atmosphere which only develops more and more as the film goes on. We get to know the characters, who aren’t particularly likable, but at least they have character. Most American efforts feature one dimensional teenagers who try desperately hard for you to like them. Satan isn’t ashamed of showing amoral human beings, and it’s refreshing to see such rich characters in a horror film. Besides Satan is Joseph’s show! When the group get to the farm house, a sense of isolation and dread prevails throughout the film. We’re introduced to Joseph who is fantastically played by an unrecognisable Vincent Cassel. Joseph clearly is… Let’s say mentally challenged to be polite, and his deranged antics begin as something quite hilarious, but by the end of the film turns into something astonishingly creepy and disturbing. It is important to note that Satan is funny, there’s a strong element of black comedy but it adds to the film if anything and it knows when to let the comedy stop to create power.
Some people go on about how the film takes an hour for it to get going. I would strongly disagree. In this first hour I was compelled at the wonderful build-up and memorably disturbing moments. The scene in the hot springs for example really builds up tension, character and is also incredibly disturbing. There’s a great sense of unease and a strong sinister atmosphere. We’re also treated to some quite outstanding directing in the vein of The Ordeal. It captures the darker side of the countryside and is always incredibly lively, never allowing the audience to nod off. The main house itself is also a masterful production design with its oppressive wallpaper and clutter which all adds to the whole scariness of the situation.
It’s from the dinner scene that things really start to escalate into deranged madness. A supernatural element is brought to the table which allows for different interpretations and is actually very clever. The whole doll-maker idea is very creepy and there’s some very scary imagery. This is the part where people start getting killed off, but the directing and editing is done in such an unusual way, that it’s anything but predictable. I had no idea what was going to happen, or indeed what was happening! It’s absolutely thrilling and captivating as well as being very very scary. Thus doing what a horror film is supposed to do. It also goes down some very shocking avenues and the final shot evoked chills and a feeling of pure horror. Even thinking back to that final shot now I feel scared! The credits are even terrifying, bringing the film into real life! For me (and others) Satan is a horror masterpiece. I think that we should be hailing this and it deserves endless praise for being one of the most insane, unpredictable, stylish and downright scariest horror films ever! It can sit proudly amongst the other unbelievably great French horror films (The Ordeal, Frontiers, Martyrs, Inside) all of which I think are some of the best horror films of all time. It once again proves that the French really do know the meaning of the word ‘horror’. Satan is just a mass of energy with some striking directing and visuals that just left me breathless. I may be in the minority here, but I know that there are others who would agree with me. Satan is a horror classic!