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.
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.