Calvaire (2004)

Calvaire is a different breed of French horror that steps aside from the recent rash of torture porn and excessive gore and offers a classic thriller that pays homage to many of the icons in horror without ever feeling pretentious or insincere in its efforts. Fans will find nods to Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and others plainly depicted on screen, and while the shots are integrated seamlessly into the film, it does take away from some of the originality. A singer breaks down in the back country of France, and finds refuge in a dilapidated hotel run by a strange comedian who offers to fix his vehicle. The small town seems to be hiding big secrets, as the lead comes to find out when he discovers his van in ruins and is kidnapped and tortured by the delusional Bartel. What the film does offer is a sick and twisted assortment of strange backwoods characters that have been (presumably) warped by their isolation, inbreeding, and sexual deviance. There are several unsettling scenes that just set an ominous and paranoid mood. The framing, color palette, and minimalist score also create an intimate relationship between the viewer and the events taking place, thrusting the audience into each scene in an uncomfortably close setting. While there are aspects of the filmmaking I did enjoy, I found the plot to be otherwise redundant and lacking much originality. It does a good job of borrowing ideas and hashing them together, but does not create its own individuality. All in all, a solid B rating and worth checking out if you get the chance!

Rating: 8/10.

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