Little Red Riding Hood only had the fox to contend with. Lucky she didn't meet the locals.

What is it about Belgian peasants? If you judged them on movies and nothing else, you would never leave the car. Either they are barking or prefer having sex with animals, or both.

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Fabrice Du Welz's debut feature is a fine example of the genre. The first half is slow and menacing, the second faster and horrible.

The plot is a variation on those teens-in-a-log-cabin slash horror flicks, except, in this case, the teens are one bloke, an itinerant lounge singer. His van breaks down in the woods on his way to a Christmas Eve gig "somewhere down south" and a raving loony, who has lost his dog, directs him to a disused inn.

The sole occupant of the inn is also off his rocker. He says he used to be a stand-up comedian but since his wife Gloria left him he's been a bit of a mess. The singer can't leave because his van won't start, and so has to wait.

One thing you should avoid in dank, muddy, rural European films is waiting, because if you do, sooner or later - forget later - the ghouls will get you. These ghouls are neighbouring farmers, who look inbred and bonkers and carry shotguns.

The daft old git in the inn attacks the singer, ties him up, shaves his head, sticks him into one of Gloria's dresses and goes all gooey at bedtime. Meanwhile, the Deliverance gang in the forest is on the warpath.

As an example of yuk cinema, this is a serious piece of work. There is no profound message, except that living alone with nature does your head in. Townies know this, anyway. It's only girls, with a touch of the Wuthering Heights, who harbour romantic notions about the wild and the wondrous.

Violence, when it comes, is suitably repugnant. Laurent Lucas, who plays the singer, goes down whimpering, but watching torture, however deranged, murders the appetite.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2004
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A passing crooner is kidnapped by a loony in the woods.
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Read more The Ordeal reviews:

Anton Bitel ****
John Gallagher ***

Director: Fabrice Du Welz

Writer: Fabrice Du Welz, Romain Protat

Starring: Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon, Jean-Luc Couchard, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigni, Philippe Grand'henry, Jo Prestia, Marc Lefebvre, Alfred David

Year: 2004

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Belgium/Luxembourg


EIFF 2004

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