Format: Cinema

Release date: 23 February 2007

Distributor: Tartan Films

Director: Kim Chapiron

Original title: Sheitan

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Roxanne Mesquida

France 2006

91 minutes

Some cultural commentators will automatically applaud anything presented as ‘youth’ or ‘street’ for fear of looking like old farts. This has very much worked in the favour of Kourtrajme (French street slang for ‘short film’), an urban collective of young film-makers, musicians and graphic designers, to which Kim Chapiron, director of Satan, belongs. After the crude shorts posted on the Kourtrajme website gained underground fame, the group was hyped-up by the French press and bigged-up by La Haine director Matthieu Kassovitz and actor Vincent Cassel – both of whom appeared in some of the early shorts. Even Chris Marker, the legendary director of La Jetée (1962), who surely should know better, did not hesitate to anoint them as the new wave of French cinema.

Agreed, their juvenile energy and joyous bashing of the rule book may appear like a breath of fresh air in the face of a stale, stilted French cinema that currently only seems capable of dull middle-of-the-road fare or low-brow, big-budget American-style productions. But youth and cheek are no substitute for talent, something that is sorely lacking in Satan, which Cassel starred in as well as produced.

In this buffoonish comedy horror flick a teenage temptress picks up four urban youths in a club and lures them back to her country house. What they find there is a derelict mansion housing a creepy collection of broken dolls and a manic, moustachioed caretaker – played by Cassel. After an unsettling encounter with a bunch of Deliverance-type inbred bumpkins the city kids get seriously freaked out by the increasingly psychotic caretaker and his heavily pregnant wife, who lurches unseen in the background.

The plot is a mish-mash of regurgitated horror clichés, awkwardly stirred towards a chokingly bad punch line. The humour is grossly puerile while the gratuitous, sleazy sex scenes seem filmed by randy teenagers delighted to have found an excuse to get pretty girls to strip. The face-off between multicultural urban youth and inbred French-born locals offered some promise but unfortunately this satirical furrow is left unploughed.

This is all in line with Kourtrajme’s ‘revolutionary’ manifesto:

– I swear not to write a script worthy of that name.
– I swear to never justify the gratuity of my gratuitous scenes: violence, sex, racism, drugs, animals.
– I swear that Jojo the gorilla will appear in each and every one of Kourtrajme productions.
– I swear that I will not give any sense to my films but I will make films for the senses.
– I swear that each artistic composition (direction, music, actors’ performances) must be dominated by my instinct and not by my reason.

Satan sure ticks all the boxes.

Virginie Sélavy

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