Sheitan (2006)

DVD Cover (Tartan Video)
Kim Chapiron Kim Chapiron
Vincent Cassel Vincent Cassel
Olivier Barthélémy Olivier Barthélémy
Roxane Mesquida Roxane Mesquida
Nico Le Phat Tan Nico Le Phat Tan
Leïla Bekhti Leïla Bekhti

5.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Supernatural Horror
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Review by Chad
Added: January 09, 2007
Those croissant-loving French sure have been putting out more and more horror in recent years, with some of their offerings being quite good (Haute Tension) and others being... well, not quite as good (Calvaire). Nevertheless, more foreign horror is always a good thing for those of us sick of the same old shit that Hollywood loves to churn out, so when a friend recommended this one to me, I decided to give it a whirl.

The story begins when a trio of young men - Bart (Olivier Bartélémy), Thai (Nico Le Phat Tan), and Ladj (Ladj Ly) - find themselves being thrown out of a nightclub for disorderly conduct. However, they had managed to pick up a couple of ladies - Eve (Roxane Mesquida) and Yasmine (Leïla Bekhti) - before finding themselves out on the streets, so they try to come up with a way to spend the rest of the evening. Eve suggests that they head out to her countryside house to continue the party, and it doesn't take long before they're all piled into a car and heading for the boondocks.

Upon arriving at her rather large house, they immediately meet Joseph (Vincent Cassel), the caretaker. Joseph is a huge man who seems to have a few screws loose upstairs, but he seems to be friendly enough, and besides - these men have two smoking-hot ladies with them and don't want to waste any time getting "settled in", if you catch my drift. What they don't know is that Eve didn't drag them out here for the sex-and-partying affair that they were expecting, and Joseph isn't exactly as friendly as he first appears to be.

On the surface, it may appear than this will turn out to be nothing more than a French Hostel, and to be honest, that's sort of what I expected. However, that couldn't be further from the truth as the storyline centers around dolls, Satanism, and a very back-woods family. I'll leave it up to you to figure out how those three items connect to one another, but let me say that the final revelations were quite interesting (especially after you realize that the entire storyline was subtly told out in advance in one of the early scenes of the film).

The way in which this story is told is also one of the highlights of the film, as first-time director Kim Chapiron did a damned good job of mixing in sly elements of black humor with the obvious horror aspects. Whereas a lot of films that attempt to mix those two genres without actually coming off as a full-fledged horror comedy fail for various reasons, here, the style is handled with maximum success. The other thing that I enjoyed about the style found here was the fact that it relied more on characters and plot to move things along rather than gallons of blood and copious nudity. Now, I have nothing against either of those, but you have to admit that rarely do either of them add much to the overall story, and a rather large amount of today's horror seems to have forgotten that. There's a grand total of one (off screen) kill and two brief glimpses of nudity throughout the running time, so if you're not in the mood for a story-oriented movie, you might as well put this one down and move on to something else.

I also enjoyed the acting abilities of the cast, as the sex-starved teens turned in surprisingly good performances. Now, that's not to say that they're in line for any "actor of the year" awards, but given the roles that they were playing and the general competence of those usually playing said roles, it was refreshing to see a couple of people who were actually convincing. The real star of the show, however, is Vincent Cassel. I'm not overly familiar with the man, but from what I've read about him, he seems to be one of the big names in French cinema. If this film is any indication, I can definitely see why that is the case. Cassel steals every scene that he appears in with his huge smile and his general naivety, and there are times when it's hard to side with the "good guys" due to his presence.

There were a few minor flaws to be found (mainly the pacing in some scenes), but overall, this was a damned fine film that shows that not every horror film has to be packed with blood and guts to be effective. Definitely worth a rental at the very least. 8/10.
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Christopher #1: Christopher - added 01/12/2007, 03:27 PM
It seemed like the film makers thought to themselves "This would be weird, let's throw this in there." Mostly referring to the ol' swimming hole scene when all the inbreds wanted to... I don't even know. Regardless, it was effective, even though it was very unnecessary. I definitely agree with your horror film comment. They don't all have to be filled with all sorts of action to be shocking.
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