Sheitan (“devil” in Arabic) is a 2006 French horror film. It was directed by Kim Chapiron from a screenplay co-written with Christian Chapiron. It stars and was co-produced by Vincent Cassel. His wife Monica Bellucci also makes a cameo appearance.
It’s Christmas Eve in Paris and in the awful-looking Styxx Club, a group of young hedonists are drinking and listening to the worst DJ you can possibly imagine.
One of the group, Thaï (Nicolas Le Phat Tan) bumps into the stunning vamp, Eve (played by actress/model Roxane Mesquida, also seen in Rubber) and quickly becomes enamoured.
Meanwhile, one of his friends, Bart (Olivier Barthelemy), gets into some bottle-related scrapes; the other two members of the group, Yasmine (Leïla Bekhti) and Ladj (Ladj Ly) are marginally less annoying. With blood pouring from Bart’s head wound, they elect to accept Eve’s offer to go back to her place in the country.
On the long journey back, they steal some gas and sweets from a petrol station and with Thaï asleep, Bart indulges in some mild foreplay with a willing Eve in the car.
Come daylight, the gang are in the remote countryside and run into Eve’s housekeeper, Joseph (Vincent Cassel, sporting an enormous set of dentures). Joseph is an extremely jolly chap and joshes with his new pals, taking a particular shine to the hapless Bart, who he constantly misnames, most amusingly as ‘Bork’. Delighted to see Eve, he feeds her some milk, direct from one of his goats. When I say he’s delighted, due to his teeth, he looks permanently ecstatic.
Joseph introduces Bart to his niece, Jeanne (Julie-Marie Parmentier), though the idea is less ‘how do you do?’ more ‘would you like to do?’. To add to the odd introductions, the farm seems to be populated with inbred yokels. To break the ice, Joseph invites the group down to the local hot spring.
Though the chaps are still very much after Eve, Jeanne tries to show her appreciation for Bart by ‘playing’ with his dog; Bart is suitably appalled. The boisterousness advances to water-based jousting, the arrival of the locals leading the some of Bart’s hair being stripped from his head. It’s around now the film goes rather strange (assuming you thought everything up until now was par for the course).
Back at the house, as night falls, conversation, naturally, turns to foreplay, Satan and the small matter of a very odd room in the house full of creepy-looking dolls. It becomes apparent the whole family is nuts, although, with libidos unsatiated, Eve is still the centre of attraction. After a bit of sexy dancing, a rather unlikely threesome takes place but is interrupted by a scream elsewhere in the house.
Aside from the seriously weird family, it transpires Joseph is taking body parts to build a proto-doll which will, at midnight, turn into something demonic. The only remaining parts are two eyes, the donor, sadly not informed in advance of his requirements. The startling imagery and hallucinatory sequences lead to a dizzying climax that continues even as the credits roll.
The film is a showcase for the never disappointing Cassel, who clearly revels in the role of the chest-thumping mentalist. Though dislikeable as characters, the rest of the cast perform their roles well enough to inspire deep loathing, Mesquida certainly believable as the film-long lust attraction.
The set-up is a lengthy one, perhaps unnecessarily so, considering the overly speedy denouement which though disturbing, lacks cohesion and throws a dream sequence in for the sake of it, ruining the flow of the film.
It’s perfectly reasonable to mention the film in the same breath as the likes of Frontière(s) and High Tension but it lacks the unremitting punch of either. Nihilistic, rude, and concerning, if it lacks one surprising element, it’s gore, the foreboding figure of Cassel being the threat without any need to clarify what he could do to you. An acquired taste but well worth a watch, if only to gaze in awe at the largest set of teeth since Spielberg’s fish.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA
“A uniquely French festive variation on all those post-‘Nam American f*cked-up family horror films, this exists purely to pay off its insidiously creepy, long build up with an outrageous, deliciously sick Yuletide punch line. Cassel’s crazed performance is at the core of a broad, blackly funny descent into madness, and the tone waivers between throwaway comic asides and genuinely disturbing details.” HorrorScreams VideoVault