Need a shot of deeply weird, art-housey, nerve-shredding French horror? Then try Sheitan (meaning Satan), über-cool debut director Kim Chapiron's homage to the suspense movie. Three sexed-up, boozy young men are lured back to a country mansion by the luscious Eve (Roxanne Mesquida), only to find its housekeeper (a maniacal Vincent Cassel) is a fan of satanic ritual. Compelling, crazy, and many different shades of gross, Sheitan will keep you hooked - if you like that sort of thing.
We encounter Bart (Oliver Barthélémy), Ladj (Ladj Ly), and Thai (Nicholas le Phat Tan) at a Paris nightclub on Christmas Eve, where they drink, fight, and chat up local girls Eve and Jasmin (Leï la Bekhti). When Eve invites the posse back to her country pile they accept readily; only to find themselves disconcerted by her creepy housekeeper, a host of inbred locals, and Joseph's wife Marie's strange obsession with dolls. Then, Joseph tells the boys a story of a peasant possessed by Satan and forced to impregnate his own sister. That's got to start anyone's alarm bells ringing.
"A PRETTY STANDARD GENRE MOVIE"
Sheitan develops into a pretty standard genre movie, with Bart and company desperate to escape the diabolical Joseph (think The Hills Have Eyes). But Chapiron imbues this film with cutting humour ("Joseph has a thing for you," Thai tells Bart, "you should seal the deal") and enough genuine creepiness to make time fly. Barthélémy does well as the nervous, touchy Bart, but Vincent Cassel is the overpowering presence here; his perma-grinning, unkempt Joseph is brilliantly unsettling. As for the end, well, it's very weird, but what did you expect from a French movie about Satanism?
In French with English subtitles.
Sheitan (Satan) is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd February 2007.