Sheitan AKA Satan
R1 - America - Tartan Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th February 2007).
The Film

French men are dicks. At least that's the impression you're left with at the end of "Sheitan", from first time feature director Kim Chapiron. French men from the cities are misogynistic, thieving and belligerent boy-racers, while rural French men are inbred Satan-worshipers who want to use the city men in their exotic rituals.
French women on the other hand are either unspeakably hot or unspeakably ugly, but either way are quite likely to be mental. And you certainly shouldn't go home with one to her house in the country, no matter how hot she is or how many of your friends are coming too.
"Sheitan" (literally "Satan") begins with friends Bart (Olivier BartÚlÚmy), Tha´ (Nico Le Phat Tan) and Ladj (Ladj Ly) partying it up in a nightclub called 'Styxx'. When Bart gets bottled and turfed out for taking a somewhat aggressive approach to his pickup lines, the group, along with bartender Yasmine (Le´la Bekhti), decide to head to the country house of Eve (Roxane Mesquida), the girl Tha´ has been chatting up.
As if Bart's antics in the club haven't already demonstrated that these aren't the greatest of guys, we're next shown them stealing food and petrol from a gas station then driving away wildly, then treated to a dream of Bart's in which he fondles Yasmine's breasts while she's asleep. A top character all round.
Upon their arrival at Eve's place, they're greeted by Joseph (Vincent Cassel), housekeeper at the estate. He's the first of the inbreds mentioned above, and is immediately creepy. Clearly, something unpleasant is about to happen. Unfortunately by this point it's difficult to care, because everyone's so reprehensible that you're eagerly anticipating their imminent deaths. And even then, the denouement is a long time coming, and mostly disappointing.
"Sheitan" has quite a bit of shock value going for it : but most of the shocks seem to be largely for their own sake, without particularly serving the plot, an example being a scene where one of the girls from the village graphically "pleasures" Bart's dog, Tyson, with her hand.
The same goes for a couple of largely unnecessary dream sequences and a completely unnecessary flashback : these seem to serve little purpose other than for the director to show off, play around or both.
Possibly the best that can be said for "Sheitan" is that it's not often boring : if only by virtue of it being quite consistently uncomfortable to watch. And the discomfort is limited by the fact that it's only 90 minutes long.
Nevertheless, given that the film pretty much goes nowhere you still may feel a little cheated out of that 90 minutes by the end of it. Vincent Cassel fans may enjoy his portrayal of Joseph, but other than that there's not a whole lot to recommend it.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this anamorphic transfer is a PAL to NTSC conversion and the result is a mixed bag. The film was shot on DV and transferred to 35mm so there's an appropriate amount of grain/noise present, the image is softer than one would like and darker scenes are hard to make out at times. While footage shot during the day are featured quite nicely, I noticed some ghosting and moir├ę patterns emerging at times. Overall not the best transfer but not the worst either, I'd call this one at slightly below average.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on this release all of which are in French, the first is a DTS 5.1 surround track, we also have a Dolby Digital 5.1 and also a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS soundtrack. The dialogue was clear and presented without distortion, the track featured a decent amount of ambient sound, while the rap and heavy dance music used in the film was at time loud and obnoxious. Overall it's an effective track that does its job without actually being totally impressive.
Optional subtitles are included in both English and Spanish. The English subtitles are easy to read and I could not spot any spelling or grammatical errors.

Extras

Tartan Video has included a making-of featurette plus some theatrical trailers and a booklet. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is "The Making of Sheitan" a featurette that runs for 23 minutes 52 seconds. This clip is presented in French with English subtitles and covers Cassel's involvement with the Kourtrajm├ę group that created a series of short films which developed a cult following in France, the casting and rehearsal process, Cassel on creating the character of Joseph and also looks at the shooting and production as we get a peek behind-the-scenes. From this clip we learn little about the actual making of and more about the Kourtrajm├ę group and how much fun the cast had in making this film.

Next up is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.

A series of bonus trailers are also included for:

- "H6" which runs for 1 minute 42 seconds.
- "Red Shoes" which runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds.
- "The Maid" which runs for 2 minutes 1 second.
- "Marebito" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.

Finally a 2-panel booklet is included which lists the chapters for the film.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: C- Audio: B+ Extras: C Overall: C

 


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