Marc Stevens isn’t just any kind of singer…he’s a lame lounge style act that drives from gig to gig in a van with his name on the side. He croons heart warming love songs to little old ladies in old folks homes. In other words…Marc isn’t really on the fast track to that platinum record. There are some privileges that come with being Marc though; he gets paid well, little old ladies try and get him to touch their wrinkled beavers and nurses slip him pictures of their tits. Doesn’t seem all that bad but then again I’m a serious sleaze.
After one such “wrinkled beaver touching” gig, Marc is off to another show when he gets caught in a nasty downpour and his van breaks down. Forced to follow a silly village idiot, Boris, he’s taken to a little hole in the wall inn located smack dab in the middle of “God-only-knows-where”. The innkeeper, Paul Bartel, is a kindly geezer willing to help Marc out. He only asks that Marc steer clear or the village during his countryside stroll.
Naturally, Marc doesn’t listen and he happens upon a barn filled with ugly village men stuffing a pig and I don’t mean with an apple. Yeah…it’s like that. Marc quickly sneaks away without being seen.
Meanwhile, Bartel has taken it upon himself to politely crowbar open Marc’s van and snoop through his belongings. He takes a few things and slips out of the van before Marc arrives back at the inn.
Things begin to take a turn for the worse though when Marc awakens the next morning to find his van broken into, battery missing and belongings lying inside Bartel’s barn. Marc confronts Bartel and catches a blunt object to the side of his head for his trouble. He later awakens to find himself tied up, a captive of Bartel, who believes Marc is his “wife” returned home.
Life for Marc really goes downhill after Bartel is spotted bringing Marc back home after a foiled escape attempt. Soon the villagers come a’ callin’ and the desperate Marc attempts to escape once again from Bartel. Little does he know he’s only jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer as the villagers aren’t interested in helping Marc escape…they’re interested in stuffing him and I don’t mean with an apple!
Folks, there’s no happy endings here. There’s no psychological twists. This film spirals further and further into tension and Du Welz doesn’t allow us many chances to blow off steam. He wants us to feel uncomfortable and he doesn’t want to break that feeling by throwing in a ton of cheap laughs. Hollywood could learn a few things here.
Calvaire (The Ordeal) is a good movie but I can foresee some horror fans having issues with the film. Namely the pacing and lack of graphic rape. The first 45 minutes of the film is completely uneventful and will have ADD viewers in tears. By the time the shit goes down we don’t get the type of rape you might see in Last House on The Left, I Spit On Your Grave, Scrapbook or even Deliverance. Though some shit is suggested, this film isn’t a head on collision as much as it’s a fender bender that ends up jamming all the doors closed and popping your trunk.
Fans of Haute Tension will definitely enjoy Calvaire (The Ordeal) but the gorehounds will be sorely disappointed. Calvaire is gloomy, atmospheric slow burner that offers a glimpse into the lives and minds of the average man ass fuckin’, no woman havin’ backwoods Belgian hillbillies. There’s no twisted faces ruined by radioactivity, there’s no David Hess…there’s just a mess of scary looking dudes lead by Phillipe Nahon (Haute Tension) sporting a vicious, snarling pig. This isn’t a masterpiece but it’s effective and interesting.