Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Horrorthon 3: Day Eighteen: The Ordeal (Calvaire) (Fabrice Du Welz, 2004) -- C

Like many failed horror films of the past decade, Fabrice Du Welz's The Ordeal miscalculates its dosages of homage and ingenuity, remaining far too much in awe of its predecessors (in this case, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) to create anything new or, even, worthwhile. Chilling and intriguing as some of Du Welz's sequences are, little coheres or resonates past its derivative genesis. Traveling magician Marc (Laurent Lucas) is almost to his next gig when his car breaks down. Too bad for him, he's trapped in a French countryside where some odd fellows reside, the worst of which, it turns out, is the seemingly friendly Mr. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), who warns Marc that he "shouldn't visit a nearby village," claiming that "not too many artistic types live there." The film's eeriest scene comes in an explicit Psycho homage, where Marc/Bartel sit in the parlor, exchanging stories, until Bartel requests that Marc sing a song for him. Unto this point, The Ordeal works as a derivative, but clever slow-burner. However, once Bartel actually captures Marc, tortures him, and sits him down at the family dinner table, where a 360 degree camera reveals all of the demented family members cackling uncontrollably, Du Welz loses grasp on his earlier, more subtle sensibilities, ultimately settling for perfunctory, literal intimations that lack resonance beyond an ephemeral gag-reflex at the depravity.

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