At times hilarious, at others stomach-churning and always exceptionally weird, Sheitan is destined to become a cult hit.

You are never quite sure where the narrative is going to take you. It starts off like American Pie with horny teens and Frat boy humour, before venturing into Wicker Man territory with a hint of Rosemary's Baby - and at any second you sense things could go very Texas Chainsaw.

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The story follows friends Thai (Nicolas Le Phat Tan), Bart (Olivier Bartélémy), Ladj (Ladj Ly) and Yasmine (Leïla Bekhti), who meet Eve (Roxane Mesquida) in a nightclub and agree to go to her place in the country to continue their party. It is morning on Christmas Eve by the time they reach her middle-of-nowhere run-down stately home, where they are greeted by a herd of goats and the exceptionally strange housekeeper Joseph.

Joseph is the real star of the show and Vincent Cassel's performance is incredible. His unkempt, maniacal, wide-eyed, grinning psycho is both amusing and terrifying in equal measure and right from the off we know to be wary.

He welcomes the youths - a little too warmly - into the house, where Eve shows off her family's doll collection. These babies make Chucky look like a Cabbage Patch Kid. The mise-en-scene screams "run, you fools". It's obvious those kids should be out of there faster than road runner.

But no, "this crib is fly" and they stick around - even joining Joseph for some skinny-dipping at the hot springs, where they meet the kind of locals who live in Royston Vasey. WTF? Is this normal behaviour in France? Getting your kit off with clearly bonkers strangers with homo-erotic tendencies and a moustache the crew could have used as a boom isn't usually the done thing. Nor is hanging around when said nutbar brings you a goat's corpse for tea - then starts a debate about whether God exists, followed by a tale about a deal with Satan.

I expected Sheitan to take a real grindhouse turn but while there are some good out-of-your seat scares, plenty of tension and queasy moments - particularly Cassel licking away at his pregnant missus' bump and in very ropey drag - gore is kept to a minimum.

There are lots of nice Biblical and Satanic references - such as Eve, who likes to eat apples, the goats, Christmas and a birth etc, which draw you in, meaning there is a story behind the weirdness.

Things plod along for about the first hour without you really knowing what is going on but by the time you work it out, you can't wait to find out what happens... while hiding behind your hands.

Just keep an eye on the chav-tastic Bart. The drugged-up, Burberry scarf and baseball-hat wearing, lech - who has probably necked more than his fair share of Buckfast on a street corner - and his obligatory pet dog meet a grisly end. Well, at least France is trying to think up ways to get rid of the ASBO louts.

Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2007
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Oversexed teenagers and Satanic rituals in a remote farmhouse.
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Chris ***1/2

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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If you like this, try:

Rosemary's Baby
The Wicker Man