A group of French youths leave a nightclub, with one of them wounded after an argument with the bartender. A sexy young girl suggests going to her place, a farmhouse in the countryside. They are broke and steal food and petrol on the way. When they get there, it's daylight. They lark about in a field with some goats, including an iconic-looking black goat, before housekeeper Joseph meets and greets them. So far, we have little indication of what sort of movie we are getting into, beyond a few hints that the easily-offended should have left before their curfew.

I don't want to suggest that this gross out film is high art, it's not. But it is refreshing to see a movie where the story has free rein to include any sort of repulsive symbolism, from a crazy, high libido woman getting sexual with a dog, to an encounter with a Muslim woman whose fears are given nasty vent in a practical joke, involving large amounts of insects.

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Sheitan leads us into a dark and nasty story of satanism by something of the back door. We are confounded by familiar American Pie-style panty sniffing humour and a wave of French, adrenalised joie-de-vivre, propelled at maniacal speed by an outstanding performance by Vincent Cassel, as the grinning housekeeper. His character is a remarkable accomplishment. Looking a bit like the ugliest of the goats, but exuding a camaraderie and hospitality, which the guests find hard to refuse, even when he suggests hot springs skinny dipping that challenges not only the youngsters' sense of possession towards the girls, but also their homophobia when the rather Pan-sexual Joseph teams up with one of the lads who seems the least dominant of the group.

Arguments between Christians, Muslims and atheists over dinner give Joseph the opening he needs to get the subject onto his favourite topic, while the give away tip offs in the name of his dog, the Chucky-like preparations of his pregnant nutter wife and his getting all protective over basilisks should give an inkling of what is in store. The sight of the nauseating Joseph slobbering over his wife before she gives birth may have turned your stomach too much to pay attention, but Sheitan, for all its flaws, deserves to become a cult favourite.

The psychotic ending feels a bit of a mish-mash, but, if you keep your eye on the girl at the centre, you can make some kind of sense of it. Sheitan is one of the cleverest late-night nasties of recent years and is worth more than the fast food you may vomit up if you have the temerity to eat first.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Oversexed teenagers and Satanic rituals in a remote farmhouse.
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Leanne McGrath ***

Director: Kim Chapiron

Writer: Christian Chapiron, Kim Chapiron

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Olivier Bartolomy, Roxane Mesquida, Nico Le Phat Tan, Leila Bekhti, Ladj Ly, Julie-Marie Parmentier

Year: 2006

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France


EIFF 2006

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