Sheitan DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee Pattee
DVD released by Tartan Films
Directed by Kim Chapiron
Written by Christian Chapiron and Kim Chapiron
2006, Region 1, 90 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on December 26th, 2006
Vincent Cassel as Joseph
Olivier Bartélémy as Bart
Roxane Mesquida as Eve
Nico Le Phat Tan as Thaï
Leïla Bekhti as Yasmine
Ladj Ly as Ladj
Julie-Marie Parmentier as Jeanne
Gérald Thomassin as Maurice
François Levantal as Le pompiste/Le chirurgien
It's Christmas Eve and three young men hit the club for some holiday cheer. Two of the three hook up with a couple of girls, and one of the fillies, Eve, offers to take the party to her house after one of the boys gets kicked out of the club for causing a ruckus.
After an all night (!!) drive, the five end up in at Eve's house, where Joseph, Eve's housekeeper, takes an unnatural shine to one of the boys, Bart.
Throw in the mysterious lady floating around the house, and the Deliverance-like townspeople that the group has a few confrontations with, and you have the best Christmas ever!
If I had to describe Sheitan in two words, it would be easy: Vincent Cassel. His performance as the more-than-slightly off-kilter Joseph carries the movie from potential mediocrity into something more than enjoyable. Cassel owns this movie. From his first appearance to the end of the film, Cassel relentlessly steals every scene he's in. And his introduction is a grand one. When he first appears on the scene, I started to laugh — thinking he was some sort of goofball. But my smile immediately died when I noticed there was something…off about him. Something really off. He wasn't so funny, anymore. He was downright creepy.
And, fortunately for the film, the supporting cast was strong enough to run with Cassel. They couldn't keep up, but they didn't hold him back, either. Standing out was Olivier Bartélémy as the ever-annoying Bart. Bartélémy managed to make his character, who is a full-on jackass, completely hateable, but you also feel a little sorry for him. You know that guy in school who always wanted to hang out with you, though he had no game and nine times out of 10, he embarrassed you when you went out anywhere with him, but there was something about him that made you feel a little bit sorry for him? That's Bart. If Franklin from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were at all likeable, he'd be Bart, too. A lesser actor would not have been able to pull that off.
The movie itself is, sadly, a little disappointing. You have a great cast, a potentially great story centered around what looks to be a town of inbreeds whose residents' names include Eve, Joseph and Marie, and some incredibly tension-filled moments. So where does it go wrong?
While there are great scenes in this movie, one in particular involves the locals and the outsiders meeting up at the local hot spring for a refreshing winter swim — a very uncomfortable scene, one of the best in the movie because everyone nails it.
But the entire situation is just completely unrealistic for me.
The kids are put in this situation where every time there's a run-in with Joseph — and there's a lot of them; hell, he lives at the house they are staying in — or the townies, it's uncomfortable for them. Every damn scene. It wasn't like they couldn't leave. They weren't in any trouble for at least the first hour of the movie. And when the trouble started, they weren't going anywhere. No sir.
Yes, I can dig suspension of disbelief. But, the same thing that bugged me about Wolf Creek bugs me about Sheitan. Why didn't the kids just leave? They had ample opportunity, and they just sat there, doing nothing but taking it. I can't buy that.
In addition, the movie has a great build up. Where Creek completely wasted its time with its first hour, Sheitan wisely utilizes it. While Sheitan's characters could have been a bit more likeable — they are knuckleheads for the most part — the film still did a damn good job giving them development, because when the shit hit the fan, you were rooting one way or another. But even with that, one of the film's biggest flaws comes at the end, when there is a four minute or so segue that comes out of nowhere. Imagine watching Schindler's List, and right at a critical moment, it breaks to a cartoon interlude. When the interlude is over, you are left scratching your head wondering what the hell just happened. And the film carries on like nothing did happen.
But, even with the problem with the kids not just leaving, and the out-of-the-blue segue, the movie still works because there is something about it that just manages to overcome its flaws.
I, for one, say it's Cassel.
Video and Audio:
Sheitan's anamorphic widescreen presentation, while soft, is gorgeous. Considering much of the movie takes place in either a dark house, a dark night or a dark club, I saw no color bleeding and the colors seemed natural and the blacks suitably deep.
The French DTS soundtrack was a minor disappointment, though. While there were no pops or cracks, and the dialogue was always crisp and clean, I have come to expect more ambient noise from a Tartan release. This one was just about average. Tartan has set the bar high with its soundtracks, and this one was just under it.
French 5.1, French 2.0 and English and Spanish subtitles are also offered.
- The Making of Sheitan
- Original Trailer
- Tartan Asia Extreme New Releases
The featurette, "The Making of Sheitan" runs about 24 minutes, and covers the gamut of the making of the film. Most of it consists of Cassel explaining how the film came to be, but it also includes some video of cast rehearsals. Quite an enjoyable watch.
Even with its flaws, I highly recommend you check Sheitan, if only for Vincent Cassel's performance. He makes the film completely enjoyable. Definitely worth a rental.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, OPPO DV-970HD DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)
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