The Ordeal

Director: Fabrice Du Welz (2004)
Starring: Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Jean-Luc Couchard
Find it: IMDB

This Christmas, while others were rotting their brain cells with festive shit like Elf and The Grinch and The Muppet Christmas Carol (all of which I actually like) I found me drinking myself into oblivion and watching a French horror film about a cabaret singer who finds himself kidnapped by a mad farmer, dressed like a woman and chased around by the mad farmer's also mad love rivals. It's like Emmerdale meets Something Horrible. And yes, I'm aware that every time I watch a film about mad farmers I compare it to Emmerdale. I fucking love Emmerdale, all right.

Marc Stevens (Lucas) is the cabaret singer in question. Daniel O' Donnell and Cliff Richard should never watch The Ordeal, because this film would thoroughly make them shit their pants. Not that Cliff Richard would ever watch extreme French horror anyway. He's more of a Songs of Praise sort of fellow.

When his van breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Stevens is taken in by kindly-faced inn owner Bartel (Berroyer). Unfortunately, Stevens reminds Bartel of his missing wife, and he's less than eager to release the poor club singer. A quick bang on the noggin later, and Stevens finds himself tied up wearing a dress, while Bartel rants and raves about how his lovely wife is never going to leave him again. Luckily for Mark, it is a very pretty dress. So pretty that Mark proves to be very popular amongst all of the other locals too. 

For all its violence and forced cross-dressing, The Ordeal follows the fairly standard Torture Film template. There's the sense of impending doom, the inevitable capture, the escape, the re-capture, the re-escape - then the bit where Anything Could Happen. Being a collector of 'extreme' cinema and having heard so many good things about The Ordeal, I found myself a little disappointed by the film. It's extreme, but not that extreme - a mite predictable and slow. Still, Stevens is easy to root for, and there's a nice sense of surrealism to some of the scenes. I particularly enjoyed the local pub and Bartel's dim-witted friend, Boris (Couchard). The Ordeal is a little unsettling, but never an Ordeal to watch, as it should be.

That said, it makes for great Christmas viewing. No, really, it does. There's a Christmas tree in it and everything.

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