The fear of what evil may lurk in rural backwoods and what deviancy reclusive bumpkins can dream up was already a well-worn horror staple when Leatherface was in human-skin diapers, but as Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz demonstrates, the darkness outside the city limits is still a gold mine if you know what you’re doing. Lounge lizard Marc (Lucas) is en route to a gig when his van breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and he’s forced to take shelter with a rather eccentric innkeeper (Berroyer). The gentleman is friendly enough, though something about him seems a little off. Maybe it’s his penchant for snooping around, or how jittery he is about the nearby villagers. Or perhaps it’s just the faraway look the man gets as he ties Marc up, crudely shaves his guest’s head and dresses him in his long-gone wife’s clothes.
A filmmaker with an uncanny sense of what constitutes creepy, Du Welz keeps everything at a low boil until the movie hits its point of no return. After that, the director opens up a Pandora’s box of primal phobias and psychosexual dread, with well-timed jump cuts and a palette of rancid browns adding to the nightmarish sensation. Calvaire isn’t afraid to borrow from a slew of sources—everything from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to the works of Bla Tarr—but what the film lacks in innovation, it makes up for with an ingenious sense of sickness. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.) — David Fear