“Calvaire” aka “The Ordeal” (2004)

calvaire-poster

In this day and age, psychology seems to be absent in quite a few modern horror films.Suspense has always been present since the days of silent films and RKO studios.More often than not however, it’s recycled plots and product devoid of thought.In the case of any film, regardless of the genre it’s important to have the audience feel it first, and think about it later.True terror is what engulfs you mind and assaults your senses.Horror is what you don’t see, and atmosphere is essential.

In recent years, Europe has reclaimed the throne so to speak with films of this magnitude.The French new wave has unleashed films that are visually striking as well as thought provoking.Their neighbor country Belgium, isn’t far behind.Case in point 2004’s Calvaire. Though they struck out with Giallo films such as The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears, this particular film is the ultimate redemption.

To be quite honest, it’s almost impossible to describe this film.It’s almost cliche to say to someone “You have to see it for yourself”, in this case that’s the only thing one can do.A great many of my friends recommended it to me.It not only lived up to all of my expectations and hype,it completely surpassed them in every way possible.

A psychological and atmospheric thriller that had my full attention from the first moments to the last.It not only combined elements from Psycho, A Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I Spit On Your Grave, and even Misery.(albeit without the over the top performance of Kathy Bates.)All the while still remaining its own product and having its own unique feel.It even somehow managed to sneak in a bit of black comedy that would appeal to just about anyone who sat down with it.

The primary element that keeps an audience member in their seat and completely fixated is this; A complete lack of a soundtrack.There is music, but it only appears when it’s performed by the characters within the film.A soundtrack score is a huge part of any film.It drives the mood and subconsciously tells us how to feel about certain scenes.With it’s absence, we’re left to rely on the visuals our eyes deliver to us as well as the feeling we have while watching.It greatly adds to the films atmosphere and helps a viewer stay with the story unfolding around them.

Don’t be surprised if this is later considered as one of the best psychological thrillers of the early 2000’s.

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