I have 461 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Sheitan (2006)
What’s it rated? Unrated for French hillbilly shenanigans, weird nudity and rampant douchebaggery.
Did people make it? Written and Directed by Christian Chapiron and Kim Chapiron. Acted by Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy, Roxane Mesquida, Nico Le Phat Tan, Leila Bekhti and Ladj Ly.
What’s it like in one sentence? Evil-ish Shepard Vs. some genuine pieces of shit.
Why did you watch it? Chewer Electrichead threw it down and Gabe T. and andrewhawkins seconded. Also, Vincent Cassel is astonishing.
What’s it about in one paragraph? A piece of shit club kid named Bart, his two friends Ladj and Thai and their acquaintance Yasmine go on a trip to the country to give their new friend Eve a ride home. The guys’ horrible attitudes, antagonizing demeanor, horny brainlessness and overall scumbagishness instantly start clashing with Eve’s group of family and friends, who might have just made a deal with the devil. Will Bart and Co. make it home alive? Will any of them get laid? Are these the worst protagonists in the history of film? Have you seen my stapler?
Play or remove from my queue? Play it at your earliest convenience. This is a classic, no doubt about it. The ending is a little flawed with a couple of character choices coming from left field that don’t make much sense but every single minute leading up to it was a complete joy to watch. Sheitan (French for Satan) adds a sense of real danger to every frame of the film, leading to a climax in the last 20 minutes that’s (while not incredibly original like the previous hour) pretty showstopping all things considered. But what Sheitan does best is the way that it plays with conventional horror film structure and tells the story it wants to instead of the one expected.
Most horror films that follow the path of “unknowing teens stumble upon crazy shit that gets weirder and weirder until it kills them” usually have the slow build for the first half of the film until the protagonists realize they’re in danger and then the final half is them being tortured and killed while one or two of them fight back. In Sheitan, the sense of dread builds very quickly for the entire first hour of the film and doesn’t blow up on the unwitting “heroes” until the final 20 minutes. That might sound like a bunch of build with no payoff, but it’s not. Most of the time in films like this the eventual violent climax is a letdown anyway from how twisted all the buildup is, so the film feels extremely intense for much of it’s running time without giving the audience the cathartic release of “ohhh, so that’s what’s going on” until the last few minutes. It works really well doing it this way because you hate the main characters so much that the most enjoyment you can possibly get is to watch them being fucked with for as long as possible without realizing what kind of danger they’re in. In films like this once the load is blown then the fun is over, but Sheitan is straight tantric up in here.
Bart (Barthelemy) is by far the least likable protagonist I’ve ever seen in a movie like this. He makes the douchebags from the Hostel movies look like nice Christian gentlemen. The first time we see him in the film, he’s sitting in a club with his almost equally unlikable friend Thai, mean mugging anyone that walks by while so drunk he can barely open his eyes. When he walks to the dance floor and asks a girl for her number she (very understandably) says no and tries to move on. But Bart can’t accept that and starts getting antagonistic and calling her names until one of the bouncers shoves him into a wall and tells him to cool it. All that does is piss Bart off more and makes him start yelling, so the bouncer breaks a bottle over the side of his face and tosses him out the door while the audience giggles with glee. Bart is mean spirited, dull, a bit rapey and way more interested in fighting than co-existing with the rest of humanity. So when he meets Eve ( The painfully attractive Roxanne Mesquida) and they head out to the country to give her a ride home, you can’t wait for the horrible shit to start happening to him and Thai. I never once found myself rooting for them to get away even when a hulking Vincent Cassel starts fucking with them. Bart and Thai exist solely to sublimate our guilt for watching horrible shit happen to them. In that respect, Sheitan is the antithesis to Funny Games.
Cassel owns this movie. He plays Eve’s unseen family’s groundskeeper Joseph, who has a pregnant wife, a penchant for drinking milk straight from the goat and the strength of a dozen men. He always has this half retarded\half evil grin on his face that creates most of the menace of the film on it’s own. When Bart and Thai start getting gropey with the ladies and disrespectful to Joseph, it makes perfect sense for him to want to fuck them up and sets a standard for the film that maybe all the horrible shit that’s going to happen isn’t pre-planned out but instead just a direct result from Bart and Thai just being assholes.
I don’t want to say anymore because going into this fresh is definitely the most ideal way to view this nasty bit of horror filmmaking. Yes, the ending leaves a few too many open threads and maybe even a plot hole or two, but the ride up to that point is so fresh and exciting that some concessions can be made. If you want more specifics about what I thought was wrong with the finale, we can chat about it in the comments. Other than the ending (which can easily be forgiven), this excellent first feature by Kim Chapiron is one for your personal collection to bust out at sleep overs and bar-mitzvahs.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? A few seconds after the opening credits are over there’s a frame of subliminal pornography, Fight Club style. Well done, France.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Them (Another great film but not remotely similar to Sheitan), Slaughter Night (sounds great, added to queue), The Apartment (Cassel and Bellucci…what else do you need?), See the Sea (Added to queue) and Don’t Let Me Die on a Sunday(Never heard of this but sounds fascinating).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Calvaire (Bad things happen in the country), Murder Party (Bad things happen at parties), Brotherhood of the Wolf (Bad things happened in the past), The Strangers (Bad things happen when you meet new people) and The Spirit (Bad things happen when Frank Miller has directorial control).
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.9
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.9
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? It’s 87 minutes of cinematic joy. Wonderfully framed and shot, impeccable sound design and Cassel is brilliant. He’s fucking Bugs Bunny crossbred with Wile E. Coyote in this. Don’t wait, watch it now.
Did you watch anything else this week? I saw Transformers 3 and it’s just like everyone else says: the first 90 minutes isn’t very good but the last hour is tits. I also watched Super 8 and really liked it but wished I’d loved it. It’s so close to being a classic.
Next Week? How about Withnail and I, just for fun?