Killtoberfest 1 – #31: Calvaire (The Ordeal)

In All, Movies by Kyu

Today in Killtoberfest: like Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, The Ordeal is aptly named. Fuck this movie.


Have you ever watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and said to yourself, I wish this was much slower and also more homoerotic? Then do I have the movie for you!

The story concerns a young lounge singer whose car breaks down near a small town in Belgium. He spends the night at a nearby inn, owned by a man who is just slightly too friendly. 45 minutes later, the filmmakers remember they’re making a horror movie, not participating in a “least interesting scene” contest, and things start happening. Mostly those things are also slow and/or dumb. The ending is okay, I guess?

Calvaire comes from the school of European filmmaking that prides itself on long takes with no dialogue but also no visuals, context, or information. The same style has produced such pieces of Fuck You, Why Did I Watch This as Liverpool and Police, Adjective. Ebert used to say that certain movies do not improve upon watching a blank screen for the same amount of time. With these films, you can’t actually tell the difference. Calvaire is a textbook example of how to ruin a story with poor pacing. And its story isn’t that great to begin with. I think it might have been trying to say something about celebrity, or love, or performance, or small town corruption, but I honestly couldn’t notice over the sound of my brain screaming.

If anyone you know ever suggests watching this, hit them in the face with a chair and run. Calvaire is a recognized form of torture under the Geneva Conventions. It repealed Glass-Steagal. It shot your dog for no reason. On December 7th, 1941, Calvaire attacked US naval forces at Pearl Harbor. It is why children cry at night and why bad things happen to good people. What I’m saying is, I didn’t like it. Belgium should apologize on its behalf.