“Sheitan” – A.J. Hakari

Sheitan is one of those movies which might require a second viewing to pick up on all the hints dropped thoughout concerning its eventual direction. How ironic, then, that as its ending credits roll, seeing this crap again is the last thing you’ll want to do.

This not-so-delightfully screwed-up French thriller revolves around four friends: Bart (Olivier Bartelemy), Thai (Nico Le Phat Tan), Yasmine (Leila Bekhti), and Ladj (Ladj Ly). After a Christmas Eve jaunt to a nightclub ends up with Bart getting into a fight, a mysterious but lovely girl named Eve (Roxane Mesquida) offers to let the whole gang stay at her family farm for the holiday. Also residing at the villa is Joseph (Vincent Cassel), an eccentric housekeeper with a constant, creepy grin but a relatively cheery disposition. As the night wears on, however, Joseph slowly begins transforming from a weird handyman into a much more sinister being. From encountering a woman who develops an obsession over Bart to being harrassed by some young thugs, the kids run into a number of strange occurrences over the course of the night which make them realize they’ve become involved in a bizarre situation that will leave some of them dead by the stroke of midnight.

The word “Sheitan” is apparently French for “Satan,” which is appropriate considering what a hellish experience sitting through this movie ended up being. Some horror movies are bad due to lame special effects, laughable performances, or a stupid story. Sheitan, like High Tension (a previous French genre import), collapses under the weight of its own pretentiousness. You know it’s bad when I accuse a horror movie of being high and mighty. But whereas High Tenson at least got off to a great start before succumbing to a self-indulgent third act, Sheitan starts fumbling the ball from the very beginning. The film’s entire first hour is a neverending endurance test, with the filmmakers biding their time and throwing one inconsequential element after another onto the screen. The characters literally just wander around doing random stuff, apparently unaware that they’re in a film and that there’s this little thing called a plot that needs to be advanced.

Sheitan wouldn’t be such a bore if the viewer were given something to chew on in the meantime. The kids are frankly a bunch of whiny, self-centered babies whose personal dramas are difficult to be concerned about. Traces of dark humor laced throughout promise a gleefully evil payoff but lead nowhere. After piddling around for the first couple of acts, Sheitan finally tries to do something but serves up sheer inanity and madness without a method instead. The shocking sights and off-the-wall plot twists fail to engage the viewer, and the little religious hints scattered throughout are downright insulting, insinuating that this dreadful movie contains a deeper meaning.

Although Vincent Cassel, through the maniacal energy of his performance, tries to keep the film afloat, Sheitan doesn’t come across the slightest bit seaworthy.

Rating: ★☆☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

 

Read Chris Luedtke’s Sheitan review here.

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