Calvaire (The Ordeal)

Critics Consensus

Calvaire (The Ordeal) has a certain amount of grim potential, but loses effectiveness by too often mistaking disturbing gore for genuine horror.



Total Count: 25


Audience Score

User Ratings: 18,705
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Movie Info

A traveling entertainer falls prey to a disturbed recluse in director Fabrice Du Welz's twisted, slow-burn riff on Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Having finished his latest performance at a remote retirement home, wandering singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) packs his gear into his van and sets out towards his next gig. Unfortunately for Marc, the fog-shrouded roads of rural France are more treacherous than he ever anticipated. When his van breaks down in the middle of the night and a skittish local promises to lead him to a nearby inn owned by the eccentric recluse Paul Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), it appears that luck may be on Marc's side and he will be back on the road with the light of the morning sun. This isn't your average bed and breakfast, though, and Bartel certainly isn't the kindly innkeeper he initially appears to be. When Marc's van is set aflame and his increasingly menacing host makes a most disturbing claim, the soft-spoken singer will be forced to fight for his life against not only Bartel, but an entire village of deeply disturbed woodsmen.


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Critic Reviews for Calvaire (The Ordeal)

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (7)

  • Du Welz has definite visual-dramatic talent. (Calvaire was a Cannes festival pick.) But, like Norman Bates' car, he need to get pulled out of the swamp.

    Oct 26, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • What sells this movie is the realistic attention to detail and the bravura direction of Fabrice Du Welz, who draws a gut-wrenching performance from Lucas.

    Oct 6, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • By the time it reaches its final act, the film rivals its American counterparts in intensity if not quite in explicit violence.

    Aug 14, 2006
  • Director-co-writer Fabrice du Welz has taken a clichéd premise and infused it with a stylish perversity that should have horror fans squealing with delight.

    Aug 12, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
  • Director Fabrice Du Welz doesn't reinvent the backwoods-freakshow formula, but there is something undeniably entertaining about violent psychos who are also committed art lovers.

    Aug 12, 2006 | Rating: 2/4
  • Directed by the newcomer Fabrice du Welz, the Belgian horror film Calvaire is pompous, but not without talent or shivers.

    Aug 10, 2006 | Rating: 0.5/5

Audience Reviews for Calvaire (The Ordeal)

  • May 06, 2013
    Crummy attempt at horror coming out of Belguim. While there have been great European takes on horror, this is not one of them.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 21, 2012
    *** out of **** It may not have the best story, or the best characters, or the best of anything; but I still found myself admiring Fabrice Du Welz's "Calvaire" a whole lot, and consistently to boot. This is one of those films that tries hard enough to succeed, in spite of its shortcomings (and I assure you, there are many), and the end result will either repulse you with its "awfulness" or surprise you with how genuine it is. A lot of loving craft went into the picture and I respect that; it all pays off. Welz has made a chilling thriller that truly aims to distress its audience. At this point, it isn't a matter of how much you love or hate the movie; it's how disturbed you are. Normally, I wouldn't like this approach, but there's something about the way in which Welz goes about staging all three acts of his film. It's the story of pop singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) who is leaving a show at a retirement home when his car breaks down somewhere deep in the woods; and he finds himself stranded there, searching for help. Eventually, it comes his way in the form of a strange man searching for a lost man; and it is this same kind but quirky guy that leads Marc to an Inn not far from where his car remains. The Inn is run by a man named Bartel (Jackie Berroyer); who appears kindly, or at least kindly enough to tow Marc's car to the premises and attempt to fix it up a bit. Marc stays a few days; a few nights. Bartel is comforting and nice; but there's work to be done. The car needs repairing, and so do Marc's emotions, which are in a tangle. To ease himself of this burden, he takes walks around the local and surrounding areas; troubled only by an instant in which Bartel warned him of a nearby village - telling him never to approach it. When Marc fails to listen and makes his way to the village regardless of Bartel's warnings; there is a dramatic turning point for the story that comes in the form of a scene depicting ritual-like bestiality between man and pig. Oh, and that's just the beginning of the weirdness that is soon to unfold. The story keeps getting stranger...and stranger...and oddly, a little more complex; as it goes on, of course. Since I'm hoping that a good few of you reading are curious about the film and wish to pursue and ultimately see it, I will not go any further in describing the story; because going further would mean spoiling a lot of the nasty surprises present throughout the remaining portion of the story. I like this movie because it does not cheat its audience. There's always a foreboding feeling of dread from the minute Marc hops in his van and hits the road; and Welz is very peculiar in how he builds suspense. He builds it through characters, dialogue, location, visual style, the off-kilter lack of a musical score, and horrors that have yet to reveal themselves. This is not - and I repeat, NOT - a horror movie; but more-so a quiet, deceptive, engaging thriller that does indeed have some thrills, some chills, and some scares. This is a film that makes its mystery known before it's even revealed; yet it's made with such taste and style that we don't call it "cheap" or "disappointing". Or maybe that's just me being opinionated; because I'm told that not everyone respected the ordeal while it lasted. While I'm kind of sad that this isn't a great film; I'm also glad that it isn't a bad one either. I imagine that it could have been better had it have been given a stronger opening scene (it begins with Marc singing to some old people; there were probably many other mapped-out choices in terms of how to begin the film, and I'm sure they were all better than the final pick) and more interesting, multi-dimensional characters. However, it's got enough genuine tension and skill put into it that I can push those things aside and recommend it to those willing to trudge through some thick, thick muck. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to live with movies like "Wolf Creek" and "August Underground". But this is not a perfect world, and therefore the sick, perverted bastards behind such exploitative garbage are allowed to run wild in order to freely express their "art". The primary reason why I enjoyed "Calvaire" is because it's just as disturbing as the said films; yet it doesn't provoke disgust out of what we see. Rather, it's all atmosphere, tension, and build-up; something that those repulsive, sick insults to cinema lack. And if I had to choose how I'd want to be disturbed, I'd choose a film like "Calvaire" over some torture porn feature any given day of the week.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 20, 2011
    I might be alone here, but I actually found this movie to be even more disturbing than A Serbian Film. Marc ends up in the archetype of a fucked up situation. He's held hostage by an insane guy who thinks Marc is his wife, surrounded by woods filled with deranged men who fuck animals. Every attempt at escape is pitiful. And the more hopeless things seem, the closer Marc is to a full breakdown. My only gripe is the ending could have been a bit longer and shown a full resolution. I'm sure the director wanted to leave it open-ended, but this is one of those movies where I just wanted a clear end. Still, this film was fucken great. Creepy as hell is an understatement. Finally, Belgium gives us something to give a shit about other than waffles.
    Alex M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 29, 2010
    Boring artsy-fartsy horror
    Arash X Super Reviewer

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