Director: Kim Chapiron
In French, with subtitles
I absolutely LOVE this movie. It’s just bonkers . . . completely off the fukking wall. And when I found it, it had been completely what I’d been looking for at the time. I was on a New French Extreme film kick as it was anyway, so this came along with perfect timing.
This film here, in my opinion, is the best of the Holiday Horror subgenre lot, hands down. This may be, in fact, one of the strangest movies you’ll ever see.
Essentially, three friends are gathering right before Xmas in a rave club, one of which drinks way too much, *(though he really seems kind of an all around permanent asshole, generally — he’s the jester, so to speak, quite literally at several points), causing his dickish group of friends nothing but grief from that first frame on. They get thrown out, but somehow manage to bring two very attractive girls with them they met inside *(which realistically — these women would have NO INTEREST whatsoever). The one girl offers them to stay at her family’s farm house. But this is no ordinary family.
This farmhouse is about as far away from society as can be, nestled deep in the French countryside. Once there, their car gets stuck in some mud when they stop to let a herd of sheep and goats cross the road. A strange man appears, Joseph (played by a hulking, almost unrecognizable Vincent Cassell). With piercing eyes, a goofy mustache, and a perpetual creepy smile, Vincent Cassell completely excels in this performance, perhaps one of the best of his career (in my opinion), and ultimately makes the film. His Joseph character is absolutely one of a kind in the annals of not just horror cinema, but the whole damn history of film altogether. The character IS terror, in every sense. The sheer madness he projects from the screen encaptures terror, laughter, and deeply dark and creepy mysteries all at once — Joseph is discomforting from his first appearance on, to say the least.
Joseph then starts squirting fresh goats milk in everyones mouth, then dislodges the car himself, proving an horrific physical strength on his behalf. He also takes an odd interest in the character Bart, the sullen and ill-behaved wannabe gangsta-tough guy drunkard wise-ass from the beginning of the film. Joseph “befriends” him in a sense, marks him.
Once at the farmhouse things only seem to grow increasingly bizarre by the second. They find out Joseph is a doll and puppet maker, and the house is filled with these odd and frightening toys, everywhere, many in odd sexual contortions or states of dismemberment.
Joseph incites them all to join him for a skinny-dip at a local, natural hot spring. They go skinny dipping, and are eventually joined by a group of mentally challenged (literally) hooligans who get naked and proceed to jump in and begin to creepily rough house. Another girl shows up and starts to jack off Marc’s dog, then pulls a handful of Bart’s hair out. That hair is then later used on a doll by Joseph’s wife.
The film progresses in this odd direction, as tensions between the friends (the males all fighting over the club two chicks, both beautiful and thoroughly ambiguous in every sense of the word), the family, and the Xmas holiday all begin to collide, unfold, and play out, in ways twisted to the point you’d never even figure.
At their Xmas dinner, a conversation about religion, and subsequently evil, erupts suddenly and violently at the table, ending with a drunken, now raging Joseph going off on god, the devil, and a brutal racist tirade. His facade quickly dissolving, the beast you knew was there coming to light.
From here on out all hell breaks loose, culminating in some of the funniest, most brutal climaxes I’ve seen in a while. I can’t really go into too much without giving the whole damn movie away. I will say that it does feature one of the gooiest, (deliberately) laugh-inducing birth scenes I’ve ever seen.
The film as a whole in fact is relentlessly entertaining and bizarre, and not really comparable to anything else. It continuously finds little ways to push the limits, up the ante, and go a wee bit over top, whether it merely be through the acting or the strange plot that turns every which way you can think of, and then some. It digs deep into the psyche, once the reality of what is going on in the final moments of the film begin to reveal themselves.
And as I mentioned, Cassell’s character of Joseph is played with such a brilliant and intense creepiness; he never ceases to make you uncomfortable, whether he’s being nice and trying to get Bart to have sex with his niece, squirting goats milk in peoples mouths, abusing his mentally challenged relatives, or playing and cooing with he and his sister-wifes Xmas Eve Satan baby.
The film is a funny, intelligent, sick, blasphemous, off-putting *(for some — not to me, I loved it from start to finish it), intense, and fun entry, perhaps even a hidden classic, from the New French Extreme , and the “Holiday Horror” sub-genre altogether. At 90 minutes it moves with a lightning pace, and may leave you a bit winded with that “what the fuck did I just watch” feeling after the fact. But nary a second of film is wasted on boring, standard tripe. For true horror fans, this is certainly a treat and not a Krampus turd.
It’s currently streaming on Netflix, and makes a great Xmas film. Go, seriously, check this hidden gem out. You won’t be disappointed. It is in French and subtitled, just a caveat for those half-assed horror fans who may take issue with such minor frivolities. *(Just kidding. Kinda.)
And Joseph’s piercing stare, silly moustache, and creepy smile, will stay with you for days after you watch. Maybe even the rest of your life. By the end of the film, it all makes sense and there is a definitive reason for all the preceding events. It wraps up, nice and sick, and almost touching. Almost.
SHEITAN is a true Xmas treat, obviously fun for the whole family, and a must for fans of just plain weirdness, debauchery, blasphemy, and “sin,” all with a winking spit in the eye of the Holiday itself. I can’t recommend seeking this out highly enough.
Vincent Daemon, writer and rabblerouser, can be followed on FB @https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 , and join his blog The Writings Of A Depraved Mind @http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/?zx=e40931ba40511a11