Tag Archives: The Ordeal

Fright Club: Best Belgian Horror

Here’s our guess: you have no idea how much great horror comes out of Belgium. A lot! So much that we weren’t even able to talk about the excellent camp horror Cub or the bloody head trip that is The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – but we still had to mention them because you should see them.

But keep in mind – there are five movies from Belgium that are even better! And here they are!

5. Vampires (2010)

About 6 years ago, Belgiain filmmaker Vincent Lanoo made a hilarious (if blandly titled) mock-doc about vampires. Far darker and more morbid than the later Kiwi import What We Do in the Shadows (the first two film crews were eaten before they could complete the documentary; the final film is dedicated to the memory of the third crew), Lanoo’s film offers insight, social commentary and blood along with laughs.

The crew moves in with a vampire family with two undisciplined teens. The house also contains the couple who live in their basement (vampires can’t own a home until they have – make – children), and Meat (the name they’ve given the woman they keep in their kitchen). There’s also a coop out back for the illegal immigrants the cops drop off on Mondays.

Beginning to end, wickedly hilarious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqS_6nlctG8

4. Them (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit.

Writers/directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up.

Set in Romania, Them follows Lucas and Clementine, a young couple still moving into the big rattling old house where they’ll stay while they’re working abroad. It will be a shorter trip than they’d originally planned.

What the film offers in 77 minutes is relentless suspense. I’m not sure what else you want.

Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

3. Alleluia (2014)

In 2004, Belgian writer/director Fabrice Du Welz released the exquisite Calvaire, marking himself a unique artist worth watching. Ten years later he revisits the themes of that film – blind passion, bloody obsession, maddening loneliness – with his newest effort, Alleluia. Once again he enlists the help of an actor who clearly understands his vision.

Laurent Lucas plays Michel, a playboy conman who preys upon lonely women, seducing them and taking whatever cash he can get his hands on. That all changes once he makes a mark of Gloria (Lola Duenas).

Du Welz’s close camera and off angles exaggerate Lucas’s teeth, nose and height in ways that flirt with the grotesque. Likewise, the film dwells on Duenas’s bags and creases, heightening the sense of unseemliness surrounding the pair’s passion.

Duenas offers a performance of mad genius, always barely able to control the tantrum, elation, or desire in any situation. Her bursting passions often lead to carnage, but there’s a madcap love story beneath that blood spray that compels not just attention but, in a macabre way, affection. Alleluia is a film busting with desperation, jealousy, and the darkest kind of love.

2. Man Bites Dog (1992)

In a bit of meta-filmmaking, Man Bites Dog is a pseudo-documentary made on a shoestring budget by struggling, young filmmakers. It is about a documentary being made on a shoestring budget by struggling, young filmmakers. The subject of the fictional documentary is the charismatic Ben – serial killer, narcissist, poet, racist, architecture enthusiast, misogynist, bird lover.

There’s more than what appears on the surface of this cynical, black comedy. The film crew starts out as dispassionate observers of Ben’s crimes. They’re just documenting, just telling the truth. No doubt this is a morally questionable practice to begin with. But they are not villains – they are serving their higher purpose: film.

The film examines social responsibility as much as it does journalistic objectivity, and what Man Bites Dog has to say about both is biting. It’s never preachy, though.

Theirs is a bitter view of their chosen industry, and – much like The Last Horror Movie – a bit of a condemnation of the viewer as well. The fact that much of the decidedly grisly content is played for laughter makes it that much more unsettling.

1. Calvaire (2004)

Like you didn’t know.

Fabrice du Welz’s surreal nightmare has appeared on eight separate Fright Club podcasts. Why? Because we effing love it.

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

Plus there’s dancing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn3oba5HmH8

Halloween Countdown, Day 8: Calvaire

The Ordeal (Calvaire) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

Plus there’s dancing!

The entire cast – freaks, every one – is so memorable, so fascinating. Du Welz creates an almost amiable curiosity with each character, although poor Marc’s increasingly horrific circumstances proves that even the biggest sweetheart here is capable of really, seriously bad things.

His film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed. So, you know, watch it!

Listen weekly to MaddWolf’s horror podcast FRIGHT CLUB. Do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn3oba5HmH8

Day 18: Calvaire (The Ordeal)

The Ordeal (Calvaire) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

His film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

Listen weekly to MaddWolf’s horror podcast FRIGHT CLUB. Do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn3oba5HmH8

Fright Club: Gay Themes in Horror

Senior Gay Correspondent Jon Theiss joins us this week to talk through our five favorite horror films with gay themes. To narrow down, first we threw out all films with girl-on-girl action intended to titillate a heterosexual male audience. We could dedicate an entire show to the female vampire and her ripe bosoms. We’re not going to, though.

What were we looking for? Films that – whether intentionally or not – seemed preoccupied with homosexual themes. In some cases, gay characters get to be actual characters and not just props for vilification or comedy. In others, teenage boys pretend to date Jami Gertz just to be closer to Kiefer Sutherland.

5. The Lost Boys (1987)

Out and proud Hollywood director Joel Schumacher spins a yarn of Santa Carla, a town with a perpetual coastal carnival and the nation’s highest murder rate. A roving band of cycle-riding vampires haunts the carnival and accounts for the carnage, until Diane Weist moves her family to town. While hottie Michael (Jason Patric) is being seduced into the demon brethren, younger brother Sam (Corey Haim) teams up with local goofballs the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) to stake all bloodsuckers.

Sure, Schumacher finds sex appeal in the vampire tale – who doesn’t, though?

What’s interesting is that he finds sexuality that swings. This would certainly become somewhat standard fare in later works (the image of an evil, blond vampire seducing an introverted brunette innocent certainly informed the 1994 Tom Cruise v Brad Pitt bite-off Interview with a Vampire). But back in ‘87, The Lost Boys was sort of the Top Gun of vampire films. (Oh, like that movie wasn’t gay!)

Though it’s Michael and David (Kiefer Sutherland) who do the “will he or won’t he?” dance, it’s Corey Haim’s character that puts this over the top. The androgyny, the shoulder pads! Is that a Rob Lowe poster?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_lwtRMg0ts

4. Night Warning (1982)

Here’s a weird one. And convoluted, too. Orphaned Billy (Jimmy McNichol) lives with his horny Aunt (Susan Tyrrell), plays basketball, and necks with his girlfriend Julia (Julia Duffy). Aunt Cheryl kills the TV repairman, claiming he was trying to rape her. When police realize the TV repairman was actually the longtime lover of Billy’s basketball coach, an evenhanded treatment of homophobia arises – surprising, given the time period. Not that it’s the point of the film, but it is the biggest surprise.

No one is really trying to unravel the murder mysteries piling up here. Aunt Cheryl is too busy trying to keep Billy to herself while small town cop Joe Carlson (go-to bigoted cop figure throughout the 70s and 80s, Bo Svenson) just wants to know whether or not Billy’s gay.

This is very definitely a low budget, early Eighties horror flick. Don’t get your hopes up. But it is such a peculiar movie. Everyone – the cop, the girlfriend, the aunt – seems to want to have sex with Billy, except his coach, who loses his job over the fear that he might want to. Longtime character actor Steve Eastin offers a commendably layered performance, given the film itself. His Coach Landers is the only genuinely decent adult in the entire movie, which really says a lot for the film.

Susan Tyrrell is fascinatingly unhinged and so, so creepy that you cannot look away, and if you’re up for one hot mess of a movie, this is an especially absorbing time waster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL8pbcWPk28

3. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

A seriously subversive film with blatant homosexual undertones, Sleepaway Camp is a bizarre take on the summer camp slasher.

It may be the shocking finale that gave the film its cult status, but it’s writer/director Robert Hilzik’s off-center approach to horror that makes it interesting. Dreamy flashbacks, weirdly gruesome murders, and a creepy (yet somehow refreshing) preoccupation with beefcake separate this one from the pack.

It’s not scary, certainly, but it is all manner of wrong. Let’s take the honest to god awesome Aunt Martha – I have looked and looked, and I can find no evidence in real life that Desiree Gould is a drag queen. Aside from the obvious evidence of this particular film.

The kill sequences are hugely imaginative, and the subversive approach to the entire film makes it hard for me to believe more people haven’t seen this gem.

2. May (2002)

How about a tale of a wallflower, the blossom of new love, and the efficient use of veterinary surgical equipment and a good-sized freezer? Few horror films are as touching, funny, heartbreaking or bloody as May.

As the title character, Angela Bettis inhabits this painfully gawky, socially awkward wallflower with utter perfection. Director Lucky McKee’s screenplay is as darkly funny as it is genuinely touching, and we’re given the opportunity to care about the characters: fragile May, laid back love interest Adam (a faultless Jeremy Sisto), hot and horny Polly (a wonderful Anna Faris).

By day Polly flirts with a confused but needy May during their workday as veterinary assistants, and by night May pines for her tragically hip and beloved Adam. May just really wants somebody who will love her.

McKee’s film pulls no punches, mining awkward moments until they’re almost unendurable and spilling plenty of blood when the time is right. He deftly leads us from the sunny “anything could happen” first act through a darker, edgier coming of age middle, and finally to a carnage-laden climax that feels sad, satisfying and somehow inevitable.

1. Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004)

That’s right – it’s Calvaire again. We come up with topics just so we can talk about this movie.

The backwoods horror subgenre is often driven by a rape hysteria – either those giant, illiterate, inbred freaks are going to rape our women, or they like the look of Ned Beatty’s purty mouth. It is not homophobia, exactly – more of a fear of losing our place atop the food chain. So, why put Calvaire atop this list?

Because writer/director Fabrice du Welz takes a somewhat familiar idea and infuses it with so much fascinating, subversive, unexplained insanity – and he examines sexual identity, love, longing, masculinity, femininity, and dance while he’s at it.

Delicate Marc (an absolutely perfect Laurent Lucas) performs as a semi-amateur, highly bedazzled crooner. We open during a show at a retirement home, where the elderly women swoon and one nurse does more. Marc is compassionate but uninterested.

Later his van breaks down well off the beaten path and we learn that basically everyone is sweet on Marc.

The unanswered questions in this film create the most bizarrely mysterious environment – there’s a backstory here that you just feel sure you don’t really want to know. What we do know is that, somehow, there’s not one human female for miles. How the men of the area have compensated is a deeply peculiar tale to unravel, and it’s the absence of the feminine that makes Marc’s presence so volatile.

Whether Marc is gay or straight is beside the point, but the fact that his own sexuality is unclear helps du Welz sidestep the patriarchal, mainstream dread usually generated by this type of film. Lucas’s delicate, supremely compassionate performance and du Welz’s use of darkest humor give the entire film a “what next?” quality that is absolutely unshakable. It may not be the gayest movie on this list, but it is absolutely the best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgB9JTdrXhg

Listen to the whole conversation at FRIGHT CLUB.

Fright Club: Best in French Horror

French horror films are not for the squeamish. In particular, the French languge output in the first decade of this century boasted some of the most extreme and well-crafted horror available anywhere. Films like Sheitan, Trouble Every Day, Frontiers, High Tension and many others mark an era that may never be bettered. In celebration of this week’s live Fright Club, we walk through some of the best in best French language horror films.

Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. Were this an American film, the tale may end shortly after Sarah’s Christmas Eve  peril makes the expectant mom realize just how much she loves, wants, and seeks to protect her unborn baby. But French horror films are different. This is study in tension wherein one woman (the incomparable Beatrice Dalle) will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

Them (Ils) (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit. Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up. Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Djvi1-k0s

Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe is perhaps the most notorious French filmmaker working in the genre, and Irreversible is his most notorious effort. Filmed in reverse chronological order and featuring two famously brutal sequences, Noe succeeds in both punishing his viewers and reminding them of life’s simple beauty. There’s no denying the intelligence of the script, the aptitude of the director, or the absolute brilliance of Monica Bellucci in an incredibly demanding role.

Martyrs (2008)

This import plays like three separate films: orphanage ghost story, suburban revenge fantasy, and medical experimentation horror. The first 2 fit together better than the last, but the whole is a brutal tale that is hard to watch, hard to turn away from, and worth the effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbct9qWBSME

Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down. With the darkest imaginable humor, the film looks like what might have happened had David Lynch directed Deliverence in French. As Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse. The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive. This film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgB9JTdrXhg

FC 02-Best in French Horror Films

Join us the 4th Saturday of every month for Fright Club Live, as we unspool a horror gem at Drexel Theater. Join the club!

Fright Club Live: Calvaire (The Ordeal)

The Ordeal (Calvaire) (2004)

This week’s Fright Club – 9pm at the Drexel Theatre in Bexley – unspools the 35mm print of Calvaire. It’s the first time the film has screened in Columbus, and we could not be more excited!

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

His film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgB9JTdrXhg