‘Calvaire (The Ordeal)’


Swoon over 75-percent-cocoa chocolate and corked blond ale all you want, nobody ever said the Belgians couldn’t make perfectly mediocre genre movies. Crafting his call-Hollywood debut, Fabrice Du Welz takes on, in Calvaire, the hoary crazy-hick gore-thriller that is again suctioning up gazillions in teen-geek cash. Recite the drill: unassuming “normal” characters get lost/stranded in the wilderness (Texas, Slovakia, Australia . . . Belgium?), meet up with deranged locals, suffer all types of malicious damage. It’s not the most sophisticated pulp formula in history, and Du Welz has not seen fit to upgrade it, except with the committed acting of Laurent Lucas as the luckless schmuck and Jackie Berroyer as his opposite number, a pudgy, avuncular innkeeper suggesting a grizzled Paul Giamatti. But of course hints of lunacy arise, Lucas’s facile entertainer becomes a prisoner, and the torture begins. Calvaire does have a psychosexual angle—read it as Psycho inside out and backwards—but the movie hardly has enough beef on its bones to make a meal. The very notion that movies about torture are considered “horror,” and are more profitable now per foot of celluloid than any other type of independent film, is what’s qualmy.